Pro Bowl guard Tre Johnson was fined $50,000 and suspended from the Washington Redskins' first regular season game next season for his part in last Saturday's fight between Redskins and Detroit Lions players during a first-round playoff game at FedEx Field.
Johnson, who struck an official during the scuffle, will lose a game check because of the suspension. That will cost him just over $135,000, bringing his total penalty to about $185,000. It is among the largest fines for an on-field incident in league history, an NFL spokesman said.
Fourteen other Redskins were fined a total of $67,000, including $12,500 for quarterback Brad Johnson. Eight Lions were fined a total of $37,000, topped by a $10,000 penalty for defensive end Robert Porcher. In all, 23 players were fined $154,000 (not including Tre Johnson's game check next season), setting a league record for an on-field incident. The fines will be deducted from the players' first regular season game checks next season.
"To me, it's absurd, the league fining guys just for being in the area," said Redskins fullback Larry Centers, who was fined $5,000. "That's our quarterback out there in a fight. He's a big part of our team. I was surprised. I thought maybe the two guys involved might be fined."
Centers also called Tre Johnson's fine excessive.
"It's absolutely ridiculously high," Centers said. "Because of one punch? Does Mike Tyson get that much for one punch?"
Tre Johnson, who will be permitted to play in the NFC semifinal on Saturday at Tampa Bay, was not available to comment. His agent, Greg A. Ray, called the league's sanctions "excessive" and said that he and Johnson will consult with the NFL Players Association before deciding whether to appeal the decision.
"He feels very bad that an official was hit, first and foremost," Ray said. "It's something that was unfortunate and unintentional. He doesn't have a reputation for this type of behavior. He came to the defense of a teammate and probably took it a step too far. We just want to make sure the NFL doesn't take this two steps too far. If the punishment fits the crime, we can live with that.
"He is very sorry for what occurred. There is no excuse for ever striking an official, intentionally or unintentionally. . . . [But] based on all that I saw occur during the game, I think it's excessive, and I think also if you look at the history of fines and suspensions in the NFL, I think we may be able to make a case that it's excessive."
According to team sources, Redskins officials were told the league wanted to send a strong message to players because this was the latest in a string of incidents involving contact with officials this season. Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Orlando Brown was suspended indefinitely for shoving an official to the ground after being struck in the eye and injured by a thrown penalty flag. Steelers tackle Wayne Gandy was fined $20,000 but not suspended after pushing an official during the final weekend of the regular season.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said: "That's a longstanding rule. When it's violated, the players are going to be disciplined."
Johnson has said he struck back judge Bill Leavy accidentally. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and other NFL officials did not address that issue directly, but Tagliabue said in a letter to Johnson that Johnson "struck a game official in what can only be described as knowing and deliberate conduct in complete disregard for both the rules of play and the safety of the game officials on the field."
Asked during a telephone interview to clarify that statement, Aiello said: "He's not saying he deliberately hit the official."
Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder, who spoke to Tagliabue yesterday, declined to comment.
According to Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations, the previous league record for total fines for a single on-field incident was $145,500. That was assessed to 35 players from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Oilers for a fight on Sept. 29, 1996.
Aiello said Johnson's fine is consistent with the largest ever assessed to a single player for an on-field incident. Lions safety Mark Carrier (who was fined $1,500 yesterday) was fined $50,000 and suspended for one game for a helmet-to-helmet hit this season. Oakland Raiders guard Steve Wisniewski was fined $50,000 in 1996 for two violations. Linebacker Bryan Cox, then with the Chicago Bears, was fined one game check--amounting to about $80,000--in '96.
Johnson will lose one-seventeenth of next season's $2.3 million salary--or $135,294--due to his suspension. The Redskins are prohibited by league rules from paying any of their players' fines for them, sources said.
Brad Johnson said he will appeal his fine, but added: "I don't know if it will do any good."
The Redskins were leading, 27-0, early in the third quarter when Brad Johnson threw an interception to Lions linebacker Stephen Boyd. As the play ended, Porcher hit the quarterback. The two began wrestling, and Johnson managed to throw Porcher to the ground. Other players quickly joined the fracas. Tre Johnson was among the first players to join the pileup.
Later, Johnson got back on his feet and was being pulled away from the group of players. He was swinging his arms wildly, and struck Leavy twice atop the official's head. Johnson was ejected by referee Bob McElwee.
According to the NFL, Tagliabue fined Johnson $30,000 and suspended him for his contact with Leavy. NFL director of football operations Gene Washington fined Johnson $20,000 for "extensive fight involvement," the league announced.
Three Redskins players (center Cory Raymer, guard Keith Sims and tackle Kipp Vickers) were fined $7,500 apiece for fighting. Four players (reserve quarterback Casey Weldon, tight end Mike Sellers, safety Leomont Evans and Centers) were fined $5,000 each for leaving the sideline. Wide receivers Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell were fined $3,000 apiece for unnecessarily entering the fight area actively. And four players (running back Skip Hicks, tackle Jon Jansen and tight ends Stephen Alexander and James Jenkins) were fined $1,500 each for entering the fight area inactively.
"I wasn't involved," Alexander said. "I ran a [pass] pattern straight down field. I was running to go back to the huddle. I was between where the fight started and the sideline. Tre was kind of out of control, and the fight ended up by me. I thought they were joking when they told me I was fined."
Weldon said: "It was stupid of me. I wasn't surprised. [But] I didn't think it would be $5,000. I thought maybe $1,500."
Evans was the only Redskins defensive player to be fined. "I wasn't surprised," he said. "That's our quarterback. You can't let people take cheap shots at your quarterback."
The Redskins were upset that Porcher was fined only $10,000. Lions defensive end Tracy Scroggins and tackle James Jones were fined $7,500 apiece for fighting. Boyd, safety Ron Rice and cornerback Bryant Westbrook were fined $3,000 apiece for unnecessarily entering the fight area actively. Carrier and tackle Luther Elliss were fined $1,500 each for unnecessarily entering the fight area inactively.
Player fines collected by the NFL are given to charities, the league said.
Staff writer Liz Clarke contributed to this report.
Redskins, Lions Fined Record Amount
Twenty-three players were fined a total of $154,000 for a fight during the Washington Redskins' 27-13 victory over the Detroit Lions in a first-round playoff game last Saturday. The fines set an NFL record, surpassing the $145,500 in fines to 35 Pittsburgh and Houston players for a fight at Three Rivers Stadium in 1996.
In addition to his fine, Tre Johnson will be suspended for one game next season, which will cost the guard an additional $135,294.
Tre Johnson $50,000
Brad Johnson $12,500
Cory Raymer $7,500
Keith Sims $7,500
Kipp Vickers $7,500
Casey Weldon $5,000
Mike Sellers $5,000
Leomont Evans $5,000
Larry Centers $5,000
Michael Westbrook $3,000
Albert Connell $3,000
Skip Hicks $1,500
Jon Jansen $1,500
Stephen Alexander $1,500
James Jenkins $1,500
Robert Porcher $10,000
Tracy Scroggins $7,500
James Jones $7,500
Ron Rice $3,000
Stephen Boyd $3,000
Bryant Westbrook $3,000
Luther Elliss $1,500
Mark Carrier $1,500