Agent calls fine 'very excessive'

Updated: December 17, 2003, 5:20 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Joe Horn's phone call will prove costly, as the NFL plans to fine the Saints receiver $30,000 for his cell-phone celebration.

Joe Horn
Horn

The fine was confirmed for ESPN.com by agent Ralph Vitolo and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. Horn is expected to be apprised of the fine in writing on Wednesday, the day on which NFL officials typically notify players of any punitive actions.

The fine stems from the now-infamous post-touchdown celebration stunt in the second quarter of New Orleans' 45-7 win against the Giants on Sunday night. After scoring the second of his four touchdowns in the game, Horn grabbed a cell phone from underneath the padding around the bottom of the goal post and pretended to make a call.

The fine represents about three-quarters of one game check, based on Horn's base salary of $700,000 for the 2003 season. But the punishment, according to Vitolo, could have been significantly harsher, with the league considering at one point a suspension of one or two games.

"From what Joe was told (by Saints officials), the league wanted to come down harder on him, and there was a potential suspension on the table," Vitolo said. "But even the fine, as far as Joe is concerned, is exorbitant. I just told him that, when he got the paperwork, to send it on to me. We'll appeal and see if we can get the thing reduced. I mean, there was nothing malicious about it, right?"

"Fining him is one thing, but to me that's very excessive. This is not a murder case," Vitolo said.

The celebration, in which Saints wide receiver Michael Lewis pulled the cell phone from underneath the padding surrounding the goal post and handed it to Horn, drew a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. It also drew criticism from nearly every quarter of the NFL, including some players, and league officials acknowledged on Sunday night that Horn would face a penalty.

Head coach Jim Haslett said the team would not punish Horn, but that he was disappointed in the receiver's "selfish" act.

Lewis is expected to be fined $5,000. The incident was Horn's second "excessive celebration" reprimand of the season, and his seventh since 2000, Aiello said.

The league warned players last season, after San Francisco wide receiver Terrell Owens pulled a Sharpie from his sock and autographed a football following a touchdown catch, that they would be subject to fines for bringing foreign objects onto the playing field.

Also Tuesday, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson was fined $10,000 by the NFL for retrieving a sign from behind a snowdrift and holding it up after a 10-yard touchdown catch Sunday. Johnson's sign read: "Dear NFL: Please don't fine me again."

There is a likelihood that if Horn violated the guidelines again the sanctions will be increased. League officials almost certainly will apprise the eight-year veteran that the next incident will merit a suspension.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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