Fists of danger
Free to fight & play: Andre Johnson avoids suspension for TKO bout
Overmatched Tennessee Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan couldn't come close to dodging Andre Johnson's fists of fury. But the Texans lifeline receiver is deftly deking away from any significant NFL punishment for the Sunday afternoon fracas that enthralled and inspired both the Reliant Stadium crowd and most of Johnson's teammates.
FOX 26 Sports Director Mark Berman first reported that the NFL had decided not to suspend Johnson for Thursday night's game with the Philadelphia Eagles, citing unnamed sources. A few hours later, the NFL announced matching $25,000 fines for Johnson and Finnegan with no suspensions.
Any money lost isn't going to bother the highest-paid receiver in football all that much. Johnson admitted after Sunday's game that having to miss the Texans' matchup with Michael Vick and the Eagles would have haunted him for a long time.
"It would kill me if I hurt my team," he said, while apologizing several times for losing his cool. "And I might have hurt my team."
Without Johnson, the Texans' passing offense would have been limited against a physical NFC East defense. Johnson's immediate apology and his good character reputation may have helped his case. Finnegan is widely regarded as one of the dirtier players in the NFL, now having been fined $45,000 for four separate incidents (including the Johnson grapple) by the league this year and sent a warning letter for another in which he was accused of punching an Broncos offensive lineman.
After Finnegan hit Johnson at the line of scrimmage midway through the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, the Texans receiver whipped off the cornerback's helmet and landed two punches to the sides of the helmet-less player's head. Finnegan also aggressively yanked off Johnson's helmet during the altercation, but didn't appear to land any punches. A host of Texans and Titans tussled on the field and Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher sprinted out from the sidelines.
Fisher maintains that Finnegan didn't try to throw a punch.
When the referees restored order, Johnson and Finnegan were both ejected from the game. Johnson walked out with a police escort to a standing ovation from the Reliant crowd. He'd get another one from the crowd at the Rockets game Sunday night as he watched former University of Texas star Kevin Durant play for Oklahoma City. And of course, a game ball from Gary Kubiak (the coach insists the prize was for Johnson's nine catches not his two fists). Finnegan was treated for cuts to the head in the Titans' trainers room.
While Johnson apologized, several Texans (and team owner Bob McNair) joked about the fight and other players defended the flying fists.
"We have to fight," safety Bernard Pollard toll CultureMap. "Nobody cares about us. The Titans don't respect us. You could see it in the way they were talking in the first half. We've got to fight. We accept that sometimes things like that happen."
Watch Andre Johnson's fight club again: