Yesterday, the NFL announced it would not suspend Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson for using Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan as a punching bag during their on-field fight this past Sunday.
Some were shocked that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wouldn't suspend someone when given the chance, but others had been predicting he wouldn't suspend Johnson. Chron.com's Jerome Solomon tweeted as such almost instantaneously on Sunday.
I agreed with him. Johnson was immediately contrite (to the point where he called Goodell on Monday), there's proof that Finnegan initiated twice, and their reputations definitely proceeded them. In my mind, the evidence pointed to Johnson not being suspended as I said on Battle Red Blog. The NFL thought so as well.
However, that won't stop some conspiracy theorists, like ESPN's Tony Kornheiser, from talking about why Johnson dodged the Goodell hammer. Let's get a jump in here, shall we?
"Do you think that part of [the lack of suspension for Johnson] might have to do with the fact that the NFL, which owns the NFL Network, has a game on Thursday night featuring the Houston Texans, whose only draw is basically Andre Johnson? And I'm not going to say, 'I'm not saying, I'm just saying.' I'm gonna say, I think it does.
This is a commissioner who sits guys out for multiple games for things that happen off the field -- and more power to him. But this made a mockery of the field.
TK almost hits the right answer there. Goodell's suspensions have been for off the field behavior - as sanctioned by the NFL's personal conduct policy. SBN Houston's own Matt Campbell pointed this out in his "Two-Day Hangover."
From an on the field stance, how did Johnson's behavior make a mockery of anything? It's a violent sport as it is, and the post-fight feedback is heavily leaning towards Finnegan getting what he deserved. The NFL, interestingly enough, had Johnson miked for the game to use in their pre-game for Thursday night. The league had far more proof of the instigating Finnegan than anyone watching did.
As for the NFL doing this for ratings, they don't need to. A terrible Tennessee-Jacksonville Monday Night game beat the American League Championship Series with the New York Yankees - MLB's flagship team. The NFL doesn't fear other sports and continues to win ratings battles on a weekly basis. Heck, the NFL Draft went against the NBA Playoffs and won. I bet last night's San Francisco-Arizona stinker did a pretty decent job in ratings - especially if the previous lop-sided match-up of San Diego and Denver was seen by 11.2 million viewers.
With Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Matt Schaub, and Arian Foster, Thursday's game was already well taken care of in terms of popular players and fantasy stars. The NFL Network didn't need Johnson. The line of reasoning that the network did is, as TK would say, JUNK.