Washington Redskins guard Tre Johnson said yesterday he plans to appeal the $50,000 fine and suspension for the first game of the 2000 regular season he received from the NFL on Tuesday.
Johnson was penalized for striking an official during the fight between Redskins and Detroit Lions players in last Saturday's first-round playoff game at FedEx Field.
Johnson said he hit back judge Bill Leavy accidentally but was "wrong" to do it. He said he initially was concerned that the NFL might suspend him from Saturday's NFC semifinal against the Buccaneers in Tampa.
"Of course I'm going to try to appeal it through the proper channels, whatever they may be," Johnson said as reporters crowded around him in the locker room at Redskin Park. "If I can get it reduced, I would greatly appreciate it. If not, I'll get a summer job. I don't want to drag this out any more than it needs to be. The issue is Tampa Bay and trying to win the Super Bowl. That's where I'm at. I lost my composure. It wasn't the right thing to do. Now it's over."
Johnson's agent, Greg A. Ray, said he spoke to NFL Players Association attorney Arthur McAfee yesterday. Johnson will file a written appeal notice with the NFL within the required 10 days and expects to have a hearing on the matter in two to three months, Ray said.
"I want to work hand in hand with the union," Ray said. "We'll address it after the season. We don't want to make this a fiasco, but we also want to make sure justice is done."
Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations, said Commissioner Paul Tagliabue would rule on any appeal by Johnson or would appoint another league official to make such a ruling. The hearing would be conducted by Tagliabue or another NFL official appointed by him, probably executive vice president Jeff Pash or director of game operations Peter Hadhazy.
Tagliabue ordered Johnson's suspension, and Tagliabue and NFL director of football operations Gene Washington each played a role in determining Johnson's fine. Johnson's suspension will cost him an additional $135,000.
Asked whether the league is sending a message about contact with officials, Johnson said: "I guess you could put it that way. To hit an official is wrong. We got a book before training camp. I'm sure this will be added to it as an example of what not to do. No one would hit an official intentionally. It wasn't as malicious as it was made out to be. I stopped. It wasn't intentional."
Johnson said he was "real concerned" about being suspended for Saturday's game until the league announced Monday that wouldn't happen.
"That was my biggest concern, being suspended for the playoff game," Johnson said. "You'd like things to come out better. But beggars can't be choosers."
Redskins veteran cornerback Darrell Green said yesterday: "It wouldn't have made sense to suspend Tre for this game. I didn't think it was that type of offense. I don't even think it was that kind of economic offense. . . . It's a Catch-22. You've got to make good decisions. But you can't let people hurt your quarterback. That shouldn't be part of football."
Johnson came to the defense of Redskins quarterback Brad Johnson, who was wrestling with Lions defensive end Robert Porcher. Tre Johnson ended up hitting Leavy atop the head while being pulled away from a group of players. Johnson was ejected by referee Bob McElwee. In all, 23 players--including 15 Redskins--were fined a record $154,000 by the league Tuesday.
"It's spelled out pretty clear: You're not supposed to fight and if there is a fight, don't leave the bench area," Redskins Coach Norv Turner said. "I'm disappointed it happened. . . . It's obvious to me the league is making it clear they don't like what happened."
Brad Johnson, who was fined $12,500, was irritated that he was fined $2,500 more than Porcher.
"He's 285 pounds," he said. "I'm 225. . . . I felt like I was protecting myself. The play was 40 yards away. How often do you see a quarterback having to scuffle to protect himself?"
But Redskins defensive end Kenard Lang said: "Porcher, once he did it, he kind of stopped. Brad kept going. It's even worse when a quarterback slams a defensive lineman. My momma told me, 'He just slammed that boy.' I said, 'Yes, he did.' "