HOUSTON - Cortland Finnegan laughed and celebrated for a moment when his fight with Houston's Andre Johnson drew a penalty flag.
Cortland Finnegan was ejected from Sunday's game for fighting with receiver Andre Johnson.
But neither player may be laughing after the NFL reviews the fourth-quarter incident that caused both players to be ejected for fighting in the Texans' 20-0 shutout of the Titans.
Finnegan was told by the NFL in a letter after the Titans' loss to Denver earlier this season that any more instances might warrant a suspension from the league. Earlier this season, Finnegan twice told TitanInsider that he wanted to be known as the “dirtiest player in the league” before the league sent the letter.
With 7:39 to play in the game, Finnegan jammed Johnson coming off the line and Johnson knocked Finnegan's helmet off. Finnegan then retaliated by grabbing Johnson's helmet and slinging it off. At that point, Johnson threw three punches at the Titans cornerback, landing a couple of solid shots.
According to Johnson, Finnegan had been badgering him earlier, leading to the altercation.
"I think that he was frustrated with what was going on during the game," Johnson said. "He kept doing little things and I told him, 'Just because you're frustrated, you need to stop what you're doing.' And I guess he thought that was funny."
Johnson, who was contrite in speaking of the incident, might also be susceptible to strong disciplinary action for taking at least three punches at Finnegan.
“I just lost my cool, and I wish I could take back what happened, but I can't,” Johnson said. “It's over and done with now. I'm pretty sure I'll be disciplined for that.”
At least Johnson spoke on the matter. Finnegan was spotted in the Titans training room by a reporter after the game, but never made himself available to the media.
“I definitely think Cortland is concerned about it – that the league could take action. I can't speak for him, but I think as a defense, we're concerned about him,” defensive back Vincent Fuller said. “We support him. We don't feel like he did anything wrong in this particular incident. But you know he's a very important player for our defense, so you know we want him on the field for us Sunday.”
Before the matter could be settled, more pushing and shoving broke out near midfield with players coming off the benches, but the matter did not escalate.
Defensive tackle Jovan Haye was bold in saying the Titans were ready to defend Finnegan.
“No matter what that scoreboard says, you ain't gonna punk us. We're built for that,” Haye said. “I saw a scuffle, so I went over there to help my boy out. I wasn't worried about (the fight escalating). We're built for stuff like that. Things happen. At the end of the day, they came out on top, so I guess they got the last laugh.”
Titans coach Jeff Fisher and defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil both said from what they saw that Finnegan did not deserve to be ejected.
“Cortland said he never took a swing. He got the helmet off, but he never took a swing. So I'm a little confused as to why they said they both threw punches. I have to look at it. I don't know,” Fisher said. “When the referee is telling me they both threw punches, and the other officials are saying he didn't throw a punch, that he flipped the helmet off, I'm confused. So I guess maybe he's got to explain it. Based on what I saw and what I'm being told, I didn't think Cortland deserved to be kicked out of the game.”
Added Cecil, “The part that I saw, their guy threw two haymakers and Cortland never did anything. I'm a little confused. Unless I missed something earlier in the down, I'm a little confused as to why it is that he was even ejected. I'm not questioning the call. The officials do what they've got to do. I understand that. I just need to see it so I can understand exactly what went on.”
Titans defensive end Jason Babin, a former Texans teammate of Johnson's, said he was surprised that the receiver took it that far.
“From what I saw, it looked like Cortland jammed him, and then Dre grabbed his facemask and pulled his helmet off, and Cortland retaliated, and Dre socked him three times. Both guys are not supposed to be doing that, but I'm surprised Dre took it that far,” Babin said.
Texans owner Bob McNair even made light of the situation after the game, saying, “I awarded it to Andre on points.”
The Texans owner said he didn't believe his star receiver would be disciplined.
“I don't know why there would be,” he said. “The DB was all over him and he's the one that initiated it and he'd been doing it the play before and all game. So he just went a little too far and Andre's the one that was on camera when the action heated up. That's not Andre but sometimes enough is enough I guess.”