Andre Johnson suspension wouldn’t have kept him off the field on Thursday

Plenty of fans — and at least one reporter, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — have suggested that the NFL didn’t suspend Texans receiver Andre Johnson for punching a helmetless Cortland Finnegan in the head on Sunday because Johnson’s team next face the Eagles on Thursday Night Football, which will be broadcast by the network owned by the NFL.

Apart from whether a suspension ever is implemented by the NFL for fighting (more on that later), there’s simply no way that Johnson’s appeal rights could have been resolved in the three days between Monday and Thursday, if the league had advised him on Monday that the penalty would be a suspension.

Suspensions can’t be enforced until an appeal has been heard and resolved.  Given the rights set forth in the labor agreement, Johnson’s appeal wouldn’t have been concluded in time for the league to hold him out of Thursday night’s game.

Apart from that, the league typically finalizes all suspensions by Tuesday of a given week, and that practice contemplates a game played on a Sunday.  Teams need to know by the first serious practice of the week — which comes on Wednesday — whether the player will be playing.  Given the short week with which the Texans are dealing, it simply wouldn’t have worked out that way.

Meanwhile, we all need to keep in mind that, for now, the NFL has opted to be more like hockey and less like basketball when it comes to player fights.

“I don’t believe a player has ever been suspended for fighting,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said via e-mail.  “I can find no evidence in our records of such a suspension.  Both players (plus Richard Seymour a few weeks ago) were ejected from the game for fighting and then fined.  Fighting is subject to ejection and fines and that is why we do not have a history of fighting.  We have very few on-field fights.  Andre Rison and Deion Sanders were not suspended when they engaged in the same kind of fighting in a game several years ago.”

Of course, this begs the question of whether the NFL should use suspensions, especially when a player punches another player in the bare head — or if/when a player pulls off another player’s helmet and strikes him in the bare head with it.  We think the league shouldn’t rule out suspensions for such blatant acts of intentional violence, especially if suspensions remain on the table for in-game violence that lacks intention to injure and/or maim.

As to the issue of maiming, a good point came up during a visit last hour with Gary Williams and Steve Phillips of Sirius XM’s Mad Dog Radio.  If Johnson’s punches to Finnegan’s head had created a Kermit Washington-Rudy Tomjanovich outcome, the severity of the injury would have resulted in a suspension.

Indeed, we’ve already seen something like that in the NFL, when Albert Haynesworth (then of the Titans) tried to shred the forehead of Cowboys center Andre Gurode.  Though it wasn’t really a “fight” because it didn’t involve fists or Gurode fighting back, the NFL suspended Haynesworth for five games.

Still, if Haynesworth’s Titans had been slated to play the following Thursday and if Haynesworth had opted to exercise his appeal rights, he would have played — regardless of whether the game were televised by NFLN, NBC, ESPN, FOX, CBS, or the Cartoon Network.

17 responses to “Andre Johnson suspension wouldn’t have kept him off the field on Thursday

  1. Both these guys deserve a suspension for that episode. Finnegan has been asking for something like that for years and it finally happened.

  2. Yeah, the Haynesworth head-stomping thing was way way way different. That was a four hundred pound D-lineman stepping on a defenseless guy’s helmetless head. This (AJ/Vaginagan) is two guys fighting, both of them helmetless, one of them a confirmed punk ass crap bag.

  3. He is right, fights are not a major issue – i.e. the existing deterrent works.

    The NFL would be better suited trying to make some sense out of their arbitrary fine schedule than jumping to fix a problem that isn’t there.

  4. Bouchette thinks he is an attorney. He always has something to say that he knows nothing about
    He wanted Ben to press charges against the guy who punched him. Then the lawyers get on Pgh talk radio and say he is nuts. He talks out of his
    a_ _.Read his columns sometimes.

  5. The whole city of Pittsburgh has turned into a bunch of sobbing cry babies. Ed Douchette, come man really? No means no. This is NO, James Harrison cannot continue to head hunt offensive players. That’s if he thinks it’s fair that offensive players aren’t allowed to cut/chop block at his legs. Remember the league put a stop to that? I don’t remember the city of Pittsburgh crying foul when that happened.

  6. Thank you.

    I have been saying this to everyone I’ve talked to about this and everyone said I was crazy. The theory that he didn’t get suspended because of the Thursday night game were stupid for two reasons:

    1) the appeal would never have been settled by Thursday night and

    2) no one in America who had planned to watch the game would have changed their mind based upon one player not being available. Seriously, this isn’t the NBA, where the absence of one superstar can hurt ratings.

    This is the freakin NFL. People would watch the game regardless.

  7. The fight between Deion and Rison, and the punch by Seymour were totally different – helmets were on the whole time. The worst they could do was slap the side of the helmet, or in the case of Seymour, take a swing at the guys exposed jaw or chin beneath the facemask. In both cases, the “victim” had plenty of protection from a serious blow.

    The Andre Johnson-Finnegan fight had more of the aspects of the Tomjanovich-Kermit Washington situation. Andre Johnson ripped Finnegan’s helmet off, apparently with the intention of taking as many shots as possible at his defenseless head. If Finnegan had not ducked out of harm’s way and showed mostly the back of his head and shoulder pads to Johnson, he could have ended up with a fractured skull, similar to what Rudy Tomjanovich suffered many years ago.

    The NFL should not be so quick to refuse to suspend all players involved in fights – some fights can have potentially fatal outcomes, as Rudy found out. And, sometimes you have to suspend the player regardless of his right to appeal – as in a situation where he is actually endangering other players by his conduct.

    Johnson should have been suspended immediately – and there was no reason to wait until Tuesday to hand down the punishment. The league easily could have made that determination at about 2pm on Sunday. Johson’s case was much more similar to Haynesworth’s, in terms of the potential for significant damage.

    I agree with Bouchette – this stinks of a decision made in favor of keeping the ratings numbers higher.

  8. @Florio – and you shouldn’t compare a helmetless fist fight on a football field to a hockey fight. Hockey fights are a joke – two goons who can barely stand up on the ice taking wild swings at each other while they are falling down on top of each other. The worst damage I’ve seen from a hockey fight in the past 24 years I’ve paid attention to the sport (since Mario was drafted by my Pens) is a black eye or busted lip.

    On a football field, you have the ability to keep your balance, get traction, and as we saw with Andre Johnson, really lean into your punches to do some serious damage. Finnegan is lucky that his face was not directly in the way of some of those shots.

    Of course, they are still a couple of wimps compared to what Mean Joe Green and Jack Lambert used to do to guys, LOL

  9. Do you really not understand the difference between being punched in the head and having a mammoth like Haynesworth use his cleats to stomp on someone’s face?

  10. No one has ever been suspended for fighting. Since when does the past all of a sudden mean anything. I mean personally I don’t think he should be suspended but in this new (Crappy and Lame) NFL with players getting fine up the Wazoo for — You know —- Playing football —– You would think he could be kicked out of the league permanently.

  11. His appeal could have been heard and adjudicated in less than 15 minutes. What was he going to say? “It wasn’t me” “It’s not fair” “I didn’t do it”…please. It was obvious that he was fighting; the why he was fighting is irrelevant and would have only been potentially viable if a suspension of more than 1 game were handed down. Finnegan had a better shot at appeal than AJ even though most fans understand that he is the bigger dirtbag in this situation. The league could have informed him of a suspension before he ever left the locker room. The NFL is absoluteley clueless about discipline. The lawyers are running amok and are in control of everything.

  12. Bouchette is an opinionated blow hard who will always be known for changing his APDRY vote from Jarius Byrd to Brian Cushing AFTER it was known that Cushing cheated. He thinks his opinion is larger than his gut.

  13. Honestly, I’d be more concerned about the re-match. Both will be out of the playoffs with nothing to lose ….other than another 25,000 ofcourse.

  14. Hey Florio,

    I mentioned the Rudy Tomjanovich connection in a post 2 weeks ago, regarding the NFL’s retarded decision to not suspend that a-hole Seysuck.

    In a year where the NFL is making a point to look tough on “unnecessary” roughness, it couldnt look more foolish when it refuses to apply the same mentality to fighting.

    In a world where a goon could run onto the field after a play, rip off Tom Brady’s helmet and beat the crap out of him, and only get $25,000 fine and no suspension vs a helmet to Brady’s BACK = 25,000-50,000 fine, ….it’s just f-d up.

  15. First of all, stepping on someone’s head while he is on the ground is not that different than repeatedly punching someone in the back of the head while he is defenseless on the ground and not stopping until the ref jumps in.

    However, there is a difference between making helmet to helmet contact during a football play which is ussually completely unintentional and punching someone in the back of the head while he is defenseless on the ground.

    For the NFL to treat the two the same by issuing more or less the same fine to both types of conduct is ridiculous.

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