Kornheiser: Johnson avoided suspension due to Thursday game

Wondering why Andre Johnson(notes) and Cortland Finnegan(notes) got off without a suspension for their vicious, on-field brawl on Sunday? Former "Monday Night Football" announcer Tony Kornheiser thinks it had to do with the NFL's self-interests in promoting this week's Thursday night game.

Johnson and the Houston Texans will face the Philadelphia Eagles in this week's Thursday game. A suspension would have kept the star receiver off the field and would have given the television network broadcasting the game less star power to promote. As Kornheiser noted on his Washington D.C.-radio show on Tuesday, the network in question just so happens to be owned by the NFL.

"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."

That's a bold claim, but not an unfair one. The NFL opened itself up to criticism like this when it created the Thursday night television package to prop up its fledgling, self-owned network. There's a massive conflict of interest involved when situations like this develop.

[More game day anger: NFL QB screams at reporter]

Kornheiser isn't saying the upcoming Thursday night game is the only reason Johnson avoided suspension, he's suggesting that it played at least some role in the decision. It may have been minor, but to think it wasn't a factor, either spoken or unspoken, is naive. Though it's hardly Jets-Patriots, the Texans-Eagles matchup is the last good game on the Thursday night schedule. Taking away Andre Johnson could have rendered it an afterthought, particularly with LeBron James' return to Cleveland on the same night.

[Photos: See more of Andre Johnson]

Cortland Finnegan should be happy about it too. If Johnson had earned a suspension, it stood to reason that the Titans cornerback would have too. Because Johnson got off, Finegan did as well, even though he was the instigator and believed he'd get sent off for a game.

[Photos: See more of Cortland Finnegan]

Anyway you look at it, a $25,000 fine for an embarrassing incident is hardly the punishment you'd expect from a disciplinarian like Roger Goodell. Two guys brawling in the open field can't be the image Goodell wants to portray. Yet with these light fines, the commissioner has given the tacit acknowledgement that such fights are acceptable, provided you don't launch yourself with the crown of your helmet, I guess.

And lest you think ratings aren't the end-all, be-all at the league offices, the NFL announced Tuesday that it would not be flexing the Sunday night game in Week 14. You know, the one involving the 3-8 Dallas Cowboys.

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