Shutdown Corner - NFL

Andre Johnson(notes) did enough with the football in his hands to deserve a game ball on Sunday. It was what else he did with those hands that will make his postgame reward controversial.

The Houston Texans receiver was awarded a game ball from coach Gary Kubiak despite getting ejected during the game for engaging in a vicious fistfight with Tennesee Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan(notes). [Watch the clip and read about the incident.] Kubiak insists he gave Johnson the ball because his nine catches for 56 yards and a touchdown put him over 60 catches for the eighth-straight season, but the coach also led with a joke about the fight and appeared to relish in his star receiver's scrape.

Texans owner Bob McNair said afterward that he awarded the fight to Johnson "on points" and the team's website even boasted about Johnson's exploits on Twitter.

[Video: See Andre Johnson's fight with Cortland Finnegan]

But though his team delighted in the fight with Finnegan, Johnson was apologetic about it after the game:

"I really don't have anything to say about Cortland. I would like to apologize to the organization, our owner, and my teammates. What happened out there today was not me. I just lost my cool and I wish that I could take back what happened, but I can't. It's over and done with now. I'm pretty sure that I'll be disciplined for it. When that time comes, I'll find out what it is and have to deal with it from there ... I hope that I'm not suspended for the next game."

That's a man's apology right there. No qualifiers, no "if I offended anyone" caveats: Johnson knew he was wrong, took responsibility for it and will accept his punishment without complaint. He'll doubtlessly be fined and will be hoping to avoid a suspension that would cause him to miss Thursday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

I don't blame Johnson for fighting Finnegan. As I wrote in Sunday's post about the fight, Finnegan prides himself on dishonorable play and is a bully on the field. He instigated the fight and got the result he deserved. Everyone knows that, even the Titans.

[Video: NBA player hits opponent with chair during brawl]

So there's no need for Kubiak to draw attention to it. It's a classless move made more for the press than for his locker room. Praise Johnson behind closed doors for getting the best of a bully, give him a pat on the back and take the high road in public. Save the game balls for one of those games when Johnson earns it both with and without the football. Given that Johnson is one of the top receivers in football, there are plenty of opportunities to do that. For his sake, let's hope that includes this Thursday night.

Update: On Monday afternoon, the NFL announced it win would fine Finnegan and Johnson $25,000 each for the fight. Neither will be suspended. Cortland Finnegan, consider yourself lucky.  

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