NFL Fines Sending Mixed Messages

NFL News - November 13th, 2009 - Written by John

In just over a week, there have been seven independent situations that the NFL league office has deemed egregious enough to merit a monetary penalty. Some for unlawful contact, some for spoofs of bad taste. The most recent fine came down Friday for Jay Cutler and Tommie Harris' actions during last Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals. Harris punched another player and was ejected from the game, and was fined $7,500. Cutler allegedly used "abusive conduct" when he argued with official Ed Hochuli about a non-call after a 4th-and-4 play when he believed tight end Greg Olsen was roughed on the pass attempt that fell incomplete. He drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for complaining and was fined $20,000, almost triple the amount Harris was for his despicable punch.

Arguing is triple-worse than punching?

At no time has the NFL appeared to have any consistency for fines, or reasoning for the disproportionate amounts, leaving many fans and players shaking their heads.

There were two other penalties that were equally puzzling:

1) Sideline near-brawl between the Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons after Matt Ryan was tagged two feet out of bounds by LeRon Landry. Landry was fined $5,000 for the hit. Albert Haynesworth, who came to Landry and DeAngelo Hall's aid when they were confronted by the entire Atlanta roster, was fined $7,500. Head coach Mike Smith, who never threw a punch/shove, nor stayed in the middle of the fracas for very long, was hit with a whopping $15,000 bill. Team executive Jeff Fish was fined $2,500 to bring the overall total to $30,000.

2) Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco tried humorously to slip a $1 bill to a referee during a replay timeout in which officials reviewed his previous catch. It landed him a $20,000 fine, almost equal to the entire sum from the Redskins-Falcons scuffle. The play in question came when Ochocinco nabbed a 15-yard dart from Carson Palmer, but replay showed his second foot landed an inch out of bounds. During the review, Ochocinco borrow the currency from an assistant coach and tried to sneak up being an idle official and hand him the cash. But the receiver never really offered the money, and it can be argued that the ref never even noticed the money. But the league said his use of the word "bribe" merited the amount.

There was also another incident last Sunday night when Philadelphia Eagles' tight end Brent Celek posed like Captain Morgan after catching a touchdown pass. The league office didn't fine Celek, but issued a quick condemnation of the act, informing all other players that any encore performance would cost them cold, hard cash.

The policy is puzzling. Football is a game that is inherently violent and players can easily lose control of their tempers, yes. But apparently punching, kicking or otherwise attacking other players is far more acceptable than arguing or pulling a silly prank.

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