Rams’ defense has gotten chippy with Cortland Finnegan
BY JOE COWLEY September 21, 2012 10:24PM
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan and coach Jeff Fisher are trying to turn things around in St. Louis. | Duane Burleson~AP
Updated: October 23, 2012 6:09AM
Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall wants his paycheck in full.
If he can keep his cool — no punches thrown, no helmets tossed — and survive an afternoon as a tourist in “lawless country’’ Sunday, no problem.
The direct deposit will be there.
Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan doesn’t seem to care as much about his weekly paycheck.
Fined $40,000 since the 2010 season, Finnegan does his best to take receivers out of their game. With pushes, punches and cheap shots after the whistle, Finnegan is a throwback to the Raiders of the ’70s.
“You take on the character of your leader, so that secondary, you can see them doing that extra stuff after the whistle, and that’s how Cortland approaches the game, that’s how he plays,’’ Marshall said. “So they’re a feisty bunch, and we’ll have to keep our composure, stay cool.
“So, Cortland, just stay in there until the whistle so we both can get a [full] check, OK?’’
Marshall said that last part with a laugh. It might not be as funny Sunday, when the Bears play the Rams at Soldier Field.
Talent-wise, it should be no contest for the Bears.
But this isn’t the same old Rams team that has been kicked around the last few years. Finnegan, signed to a five-year, $50 million deal this offseason, was one of new coach Jeff Fisher’s first additions.
Through the first two games, Finnegan has run an interception back for a touchdown and gotten under Redskins wide receiver Josh Morgan’s skin, sealing a 31-28 victory after Morgan threw a football at him, taking his team out of field-goal range late in the game because of the penalty.
Since that loss to the Rams, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has called the Rams “dirty’’ and “unprofessional,’’ pointing out that the replacement officials let a lot of things go.
“It’s not the Big 12,” Rams running back Steven Jackson told local reporters, referring to Griffin’s alma mater, Baylor. “I don’t think we’re a dirty team. I think we’re a team that’s hungry, young and eager to make a turnaround.”
It sounded like a good defense at the time. At least until more Rams players started talking.
One anonymous player told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that they embraced the replacement officials because it makes it “lawless country’’ on the field. Then Finnegan spoke.
“They just let you play football,” Finnegan said. “That’s one of those things you enjoy. I admire the old-school players. The [Jack] Tatums, the Mean Joe Greenes. Those guys played football. ... It has been watered down since with the commissioner and the rules.’’
The entire defense seemingly has embraced that rogue mentality, so the Bears’ offense must remain disciplined.
“The thing is to go out there and make them match your intensity,’’ wide receiver Earl Bennett said. “Go out there, play hard but play smart. After the whistle, let it be over with, but between the whistle, it’s fair game. It’s all about playing hard and doing your job.’’
If some extracurricular activity does take place, Bennett said it’s nothing new.
“It’s football,’’ Bennett said. “My thing is, I don’t look at certain things as dirty or cheap. I just go out there and play the game. If they do something I feel is unfair, I’ll get them back between the whistle.’’