Darius fined $75,000 but not suspended

While most of Packer Nation is raging at a full boil over Donovin Darius' devastating hit to wide receiver Robert Ferguson, an important segment weighed in in favor of the firm if not severe punishment doled out by the NFL on Tuesday.

Ferguson's teammates.

The league on Tuesday hit the Jacksonville safety with a $75,000 fine — but no suspension — for the illegal hit delivered to Ferguson during the final five minutes of Sunday's game.

The punishment fit the crime, most of the players surveyed said Tuesday afternoon.

"The (NFL) had to do whatever they had to do," said fellow wide receiver Donald Driver. "I don't think Darius tried to hurt Ferg, but he did get hurt. When you hurt a player like that, they have to figure out some kind of way to take it out on someone. And they took it out with a $75,000 fine."

The other member of the Packers' standout receiving trio, Javon Walker, also agreed with the punishment.

"I know he didn't want the fine and he didn't mean to do what he did, but I guess he has to suffer the consequences because Ferguson is," Walker said. "He's suffering the consequences not being able to practice this week and play this week."

Darius has maintained all along he was only trying to separate Ferguson from the football and had no intention of hurting him. In a statement Tuesday, Darius said he called Ferguson at the hospital on Monday.

"We had a good conversation in which he told me he has no hard feelings," Darius said. "We agreed that it was a part of the game. The most important thing is that Robert is OK."

Packers quarterback Brett Favre wasn't exactly sold on the "part of the game" statement.

"I don't know him personally. He seems like a good guy and it's an unfortunate hit," Favre said. "And his comments were he was going for the ball. Maybe he was. Maybe his sole intention was to knock the ball out, but it just didn't seem like it. You'd hate to think that you'd ruin a guy's career, and Fergie, by all accounts, will come back from it. But mentally will he be the same? I don't know.

"I know the game of football is a violent game and over the years, especially since I've been here, they've changed the rules each year to try to protect players more and more. I know things happen but it just didn't seem like a fair hit to me."

Packers safety Darren Sharper was one Packer who argued in favor of a suspension.

"That is very steep, very steep," Sharper said. "I don't know if anyone has gotten fined that amount before for a hit, but that will definitely raise some eyebrows. Whether it changes how he plays, we'll see. It was warranted. He just can't put guys in that position and risk someone's livelihood and life doing those types of things."

Ferguson was released from the hospital Tuesday and will be at Lambeau Field on Wednesday to be examined by the Packers' medical staff. Packers coach Mike Sherman already has ruled him out for Friday's winner-take-all NFC North showdown at Minnesota.

"He told me he'd be at practice Wednesday, ready to go and we were going to go get the Vikings, which is typical Ferg," Favre relayed from his Sunday night conversation with Ferguson. "But I don't know when we'll get him back (and) that's not a major concern. We'd love to have him but we're more concerned about his health."

According to league disciplinarian Gene Washington, Darius was spared a suspension because he is a first-time offender. Washington, however, justified the hefty fine in one terse sentence.

"You violently and unnecessarily struck your opponent in the neck and head area with your forearm," Washington said in a letter to Darius.

Turning to the football side of the equation, the Packers are down to three healthy receivers: Driver, Walker and Antonio Chatman. The Packers used third-string running back Tony Fisher in that role in practice Tuesday and likely will promote practice-squad receiver Andrae Thurman for Friday's game.

Offensive coordinator Tom Rossley praised Thurman, an undrafted rookie from Division III Southern Oregon, for being a "great-hands receiver."

The 5-foot-11, 192-pound Thurman has been on the practice squad all season. He got a pep talk from Ferguson on Monday.

"He told me to go out and play hard. Make sure I know what I'm doing and get a win," Thurman said.

Taking Ferguson's spot on kickoff returns will be Chatman.

Packer Report Top Stories