On Monday, the NFL announced that neither Andre Johnson nor Cortland Finnegan would be suspended following Sunday’s brawl. It was featured on seemingly every website in the world, teased at the opener of every newscast and run in the sports gag reels that are commonplace following the news. Almost 48 hours, I’m still trying to beat down the cynic in me and see how the Commissioner came to this conclusion.
In the end, though I usually think myself to be a half-intelligent, rational being, I’m still not seeing how the punishment, or lack thereof, is enough.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand Finnegan’s reputation. I understand that he wants to head the “NFL Outlaw” list in future seasons and that he’s seen in most circles as the Darius Kasparaitis of the NFL. Several people I talked to since Sunday afternoon, including on-air talent, have talked of awarding Johnson a bonus for each blow landed.
Does it mean that any player who takes on Finnegan or any member of the NFL brass’ “naughty list” after the whistle gets looked at a different way?
Is that why the Commish slapped the same fine that is applied to those who refuse to meet the media on Johnson and Finnegan? Want to try telling James Harrison why his game check is lighter seemingly every week for playing aggressively? You’re trying to interpret intent as a defender tackles a running back or quarterback, or hits a player high when someone ducks or shifts at the last second. There’s no question of Johnson’s intent here.
But forget about the dollars and cents of it all. I’m still shocked that neither player was suspended for Week 13. Whatever we think of Andre Johnson — his skills, demeanor and character overall — he crossed a line. He plays through pain. He has gone about his work quietly and dominated, even in losing season after losing season.
We respect that. Fans, analysts, pundits nationwide respect and appreciate that.
It doesn’t mean that he should get a pass because he picks up a phone before a decision comes down and apologizes. Johnson landed three blows on Finnegan after a play was over. Period. He lost his cool. Many players have faced the mighty wrath of Goodell for allegations and legal cases that were ultimately dismissed. In every instance, “the integrity of the shield” was at the base of the arguments in determining the players’ suspensions.
Again, this incident was shown everywhere, from daytime talkers to late-night shows and everywhere in-between. Is it good that a fight leads NFL coverage and becomes a punchline? You want the jokes of Johnson’s technique and where he’d rank in the current fight game?
— The “they were ejected from the game” argument hardly flies as this lackluster contest was already creeping toward its end.
— Oh, and it’s not as if these two haven’t gone at it before. You saw it last year. Two incidents have been deemed “a pattern” in the past.
I didn’t want to believe that the fact that Houston (still clinging to playoff hopes) plays in the NFL Network’s Thursday night game against the Eagles would influence things. Sadly, that’s the only logic that sticks. Following Sunday’s loss to Chicago, Philadelphia has come back to the pack and the AFC South is a jumbled mess. It’s an important game on many levels and mighty compelling action. No, that can’t be it.
I’ll surely tune in Thursday, and fans and fantasy owners will watch the Eagles and Texans get after it for their playoff lives. You always want to see teams go at it full-tilt and with all the stars in tow.
I don’t like the decision, and I believe the precedent set is terrible. But, we’ll watch it going forward. When’s the next blow landed? On whom? And will the punishment be as insignificant as this week’s decision? If Johnson and Finnegan lock up in Week 15, does the fine go to $50,000?
I’ll chalk it up to the “holiday spirit” and tryptophan.