Updated: 7:45 p.m.
The agent for Bengals left guard Andrew Whitworth said Monday that he doesn't expect his client to get suspended after Sunday's incident in which Jacksonville defensive tackle John Henderson attacked the helmet-less Whitworth's eyes.
Steve Colson said that he and the club have talked to the NFL office and are asking league officials not to apply the letter of the law and hand Whitworth an automatic fine for fighting. Whitworth started throwing punches to extract himself from Henderson's eye gouges that bordered on a Three Stooges short film late in the third quarter of the Bengals 21-19 victory. After wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught a 23-yard pass on a play Henderson ripped off Whitworth's helmet, Henderson jumped him from behind.
Whitworth"What Andrew did was purely self defense," Colson said. "If he didn't do what he did, we could be sitting here talking about a very serious injury involving his eyes. Given what he was faced with, Andrew handled it like a true professional."
Colson said there is no difference between what Henderson did and the mayhem that Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth inflicted on Dallas center Andre Gurode when he stomped on his face. That earned Haynesworth a five-game suspension in 2006.
"Terrible; it was a terrible play," Colson said. "If Andrew broke the rules, it was an expired parking meter by five minutes while the other guy committed assault. It just goes beyond a typical football play."
Colson said that Bengals management texted Colson during and after the game and have pledged their support. At his Monday news conference, head coach Marvin Lewis softened his postgame stance that Whitworth needed to walk away.
"Whit was not retaliating," said Lewis, a member of the league's competition committee, "Whit was trying to defend himself. It's a shame. He feels bad about it because it took us out of position and we lost a very good player. That's the shame of it.
"I think he had no choice in the matter. To get free of John Henderson, he had to do what he did. He got grabbed from behind. I think Andrew's tone of the game and how he played prior to that was very good."
Colson, who negotiated a contract extension for Whitworth before training camp, expects a decision as early as Thursday.
"Andrew's very appreciative of the support he's received," Colson said. "Management has been great and said they'd talk to the league. Andrew visited with Coach Lewis today and he was very supportive and said he'd make some calls on his behalf."
As he left PBS Monday after a lifting session, Whitworth remained adamant following a good night's sleep that there was nothing else he could have done.
"It goes far beyond the realm of football. Trying to cause some kind of injury or harm to my face or eyes, it's just ridiculous," Whitworth said. "I hope the NFL acknowledges that. I threw a punch. Whatever I get for that, that's fine. I can deal with it. But I felt I was completely defending myself. What he did is so far past football, it needs to be acknowledged that way. Anywhere else, that's assault."
HoushmandzadehHoushmandzadeh was all for Whitworth's actions and said if he didn't punch back, "he'd probably be seeing an eye doctor today."
But Houshmandzadeh isn't so sure Henderson deserves a suspension. He also admitted he didn't see the play because he was busy making a first down.
"When you're playing a game your emotions kind of run high," said Houshmandzadeh, one of the most emotional players in the game. "I don't say I agree with what John Henderson did. I just think that his emotions got the best of him. (Whitworth's) helmet came off. (Henderson) didn't really want to throw a punch because you know what a punch will get you. That's the first thing that came to his mind. That's all I can think of. I wouldn't do anything like that. I would hope not, anyway."
Lost in the mess was the 23-yard play. It would have been Fitzpatrick's longest pass of the season and Houshmandzadeh's longest catch since Oct. 5. As it was, he hauled in a 22-yarder against the Jags for his first 20-yard hookup with Fitzpatrick.
Houshmandzadeh, the NFL leader in catches (61) and third-down catches (21), joked, "I may need that one at the end of the year."
FitzpatrickCARSON APPROVED: Sunday's win not only marked Fitzpatrick's first victory as an NFL starter, but it was the first victory not quarterbacked by Carson Palmer since the 2004 season finale in which Jon Kitna bested a former Bengals starter in Jeff Blake for a 38-10 victory in Philadelphia.
And Palmer thoroughly enjoyed it.
"It was fun to watch the film," Palmer said as he left PBS Monday. "He was confident, comfortable. The offensive line played great in the passing game. They gave him plenty of time to go through his reads. The offensive line did a great job in the running game and Cedric ran his butt off. It was fun to watch."
The itch to return is the same. The first win of the season changes nothing. Palmer said nothing has changed with his sore elbow, which means he still wants to play this season.
"Same old; we'll see what happens," he said. "There's not more of an itch than what I've already had."
"It's huge," he said of Fitzpatrick's icebreaker. "Everybody likes Fitz. He's fired up. The team is happy for him. You can feel the release of stress. The monkey is off the back."
A win hasn't loosened Lewis' lips at all. On Monday he gave no update on Palmer and said he wouldn't rule him out for the next game, the Nov. 16 Paul Brown Stadium match against the Eagles.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
Houshmandzadeh said he wished the Bengals could keep playing instead of having this weekend off. But noting the players are off from Wednesday night to Sunday night, he couldn't resist a good-natured dig at Lewis' tough weekly regimen. "Marvin is going to take care of us on the bye week, which is a shocker," he said.
This is the way the season is going: When the Bengals practice Wednesday (they have Tuesday off), only Palmer (elbow) and rookie receivers Andre Caldwell (foot) and Jerome Simpson (ankle) won't be able to go. It sounds like Caldwell is the closest to being back for the Eagles.
Just how deep the Bengals have dug their hole on offense is reflected in Monday's NFL stats. Despite their best rushing day of the season (159 yards) and second-best yardage day (312), they are still dead last in offense.
But Lewis said they have not only found a running back in Cedric Benson, but a scheme to fit him.
"After you've had a running back for a few weeks, like we've had Cedric, we try to do things that fit his style," Lewis said. "Cedric's style is running behind his pads; and he is a good cutter. He is very quick and generally very deliberate in where he goes with the football. He has great vision, and he has the speed and quickness when he does get to the next level ... better than the guys we've had in there before him this year."