Sadly, Cortland Finnegan will likely not see his name mentioned on any Top 10 players’ list from last season, or even on a Top 10 cornerbacks list, for that matter. However, Finnegan did make one list, one that no one will be surprised about…
Bleacher Reports’ “10 Most Aggressive Football Players in the NFL” highlights some of the meanest, nastiest players in the game. Coincidentally, all of those players happen to garner a ton of respect within the league, not only for their “dirtiness,” but for their overall production. Some of the highlights on their list are player-killers like James Harrison and Bernard Pollard, both of whom have caused their fair share of concussions. It also lists a handful of chippy offensive players, like the Panthers’ Steve Smith and the Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch. However, the elder-statesman of the group is none other than the St. Louis Rams’ Cortland Finnegan.
Finnegan jumped into the spotlight in 2010, by inflaming Houston Texans’ receiver Andre Johnson to the point where the two lost their helmets and began fighting on the field. That year, Finnegan received over $40,000 in fines for his extracurriculars on the field, which also included a pseudo-brawl with the Giants’ Steve Smith… yes, that Steve Smith.
Since then, Finnegan has tailored down his antics or, at least, developed them to the point where he can evoke a reaction, all while maintaining his cool. In Week 2 against the Washington Redskins in 2012, Robert Griffin III led his team all the way to the Rams’ 38 yard line with under 2:00 minutes left in the 4th quarter. At the time, the score was 31-28 in the Rams favor, meaning that the ‘Skins needed only a handful of yards to get within field goal range to tie it up and send it to overtime. On a 3rd and 8, Griffin dumped a short pass to Josh Morgan, who was tackled at the Rams’ 29 yard line, well within field goal range; enter Cortland Finnegan. As Morgan jumped up from the ground, Finnegan gave him a little nudge in the facemask… Morgan lost his temper, chucked the ball at Finnegan, and the Redskins got flagged and moved back 15 yards. That play forcing a 62-yard failed field goal attempts, and would be deemed the deciding play of the game. Win.
Finnegan has certainly moved from “dirty” towards more respectable terms like “fiesty” and “aggressive” over the last couple of seasons. His aggressive style of play has clearly helped set the tone in the Rams’ secondary, one that was a force at the end of the season last year. Not only is he a Top 10 player in terms of aggressiveness, but also in heart, passion, and willingness to sacrifice his body for the overall good of the team. In 2012, he was essentially the Rams’ strongside linebacker, raking up 101 combined tackles (leader among defensive backs), 3 interceptions, a sack, a forced fumble, and a defensive touchdown in the opener against the Detroit Lions. Finnegan’s performance on the field will likely always be overshadowed by a handful of notable mishaps, but it’s doubtful that will change his style of play in the future.