Kalil apologized for the incident Monday, saying a combination of his struggles this season, a loss against division rival Green Bay, and losing right tackle Phil Loadholt for the season to a pectoral injury in the game brought his frustration to a head.
“I usually shrug that stuff off,” Kalil said. “Fans like to talk and say some things. But it’s just something I could’ve been the bigger man and walked away. But it wasn’t really that big of a deal.
“… (The fan) caught me when I had a short fuse that day. I’m usually pretty good at keeping my composure and talking to you guys and stuff like that. I hope I didn’t offend anyone by walking out of the locker room that day. It wasn’t my best day.”
The fan explained on Twitter what happened from his perspective when an ESPN reporter put out a call for information as rumors spread of an incident involving Kalil after the game. Kalil had three penalties for 35 yards in the game.
“We just watched Matt Kalil cost us the game, so when he came out I really didn’t want to see him, so I said to him, ‘Where do you want to be traded?’” the Vikings fan who goes by Rhett Wade on Twitter wrote in a series of tweets. “And he was on his phone, and when it finally registered with him what I said he turned around and said, ‘who said that?’ like I would be scared to repeat myself, but that wasn’t the case, so I told him again.
“Then he walked away like he didn’t hear what I said, but then he turned back around and asked me what I said again and then I repeated what I said again and then he proceeded to grab my hat off my head and throw it on the ground and mumble some stuff.”
The video shows Kalil knocking the hat off the fans’ head and walking away with his phone to his ear, and the fan then throwing a program at Kalil with another fan yelling, “Why don’t you play like that on the field, dude?”
“It was one of those things when I walked away it was, ‘What am I doing?’ That guy’s not really worth my time,” Kalil said. “But whatever happened happened so I’ll obviously learn from that and won’t let him get the best of me. He just caught me at the right moment. Like I said, usually in one ear and out there other.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer said Kalil was wrong in the way he handled the fan’s criticism.
“We put a lot into playing every week and going out here and practicing and working real hard and pouring our heart and soul into the games on Sunday and everybody is in an emotional state and disappointed, so he was wrong in what he did,” Zimmer said. “We appreciate 99.9 percent of the fans; they’re great for us and he should have conducted himself in a better manner. It’s a good lesson for all of us. I know that in the past there have been times when I’ve been upset with people, too, but they pay money to go watch us play and watch us perform so they have a right to express their opinion. We just have to keep our composure and not let things get out of hand.”
Receiver Jarius Wright suggested that fans be moved away from the area where the players exit TCF Bank Stadium so fans aren’t able to heckle them after bad games.
“After losing a tough game the way we did, for a fan to say anything to Matt after that is kind of crazy, like I said, a tough loss, and you don’t want to hear anything about the loss,” Wright said. “So not just Matt, anyway that you played, just for me for instance, I don’t want to hear how I played after a tough loss like that, so if you ask me, like I said, I think the fans are a little close, and maybe a little too much access.”
Kalil said he was on the phone his dad when the incident happened.
Deadspin obtained a video of part of the incident, starting with Kalil knocking the hat off the fan’s head.