As the cameras descended upon Quinton Coples, the Jets outside linebacker flashed his boyish grin.
“I got a letter,” he said, confirming that he had been fined by the NFL for his joint hit on Titans quarterback Jake Locker last week. “The league felt like it was a personal foul or inappropriate hit. But one thing about it, it’s up for debate. So I’m going to appeal it and we’ll go forward from there.”
Locker was forced to leave last Sunday’s game in Tennessee after being hit in the chest by Muhammad Wilkerson and then in the side by Coples on the same play. Though neither player disclosed the dollar amounts on Thursday, Coples and Wilkerson were reportedly fined $7,875 and $15,785, respectively, by the NFL.
Wilkerson said he was prepared to appeal the fine regardless of the amount.
“If it was $5,000, I still would have appealed it,” the defensive end said. “I don’t think it was a dirty hit and I don’t think I should’ve gotten fined. …(The league) said it was roughing the passer. If it was roughing the passer, the ref would’ve thrown the flag. ...I think I play good, clean ball and that’s that.”
Rex Ryan maintained Thursday that neither player had any intention of hurting the quarterback. Interestingly enough, Locker – who will miss at least a month with a sprained hip -- agreed.
“I didn't feel like that on the field, and after watching it, you know, it wasn't anything malicious, I didn't feel like,” the Titans quarterback told reporters this week, following his release from the hospital. “I kind of got bounced into the second guy. I didn't feel like they were out to get me, no.”
“I personally don’t think it was a dirty hit. I mean, he said it (too),” Wilkerson said, referring to Locker.
Asked about Locker’s comments on the situation, Coples said: “I heard that. He felt that same way. That’s a good thing. Like I said, I’ll move forward as far as the appeal process and see what happens.
“…It was just a football play. I was pass-rushing, I saw him, he was about to throw the ball and by the time I got there he had thrown the ball and next thing I know he was flying towards me, so I just moved out the way. And then the play was over with. I don’t understand.”
Both defensive players reiterated they’re respective hits were clean and don’t warrant punishment.
“There was no flag, there was nothing said as far as coming out of the game, you know, an intentional hit,” explained Coples. “At the end of the day, it was something that I was surprised about.”
He and Wilkerson face the same challenge as other NFL defensive players – playing fast and physical within the confines of the rules. But both Jets say the Locker incident won’t affect their styles.
“I just play hard physical football, like I’m supposed to, like I was brought up and taught. And I’m going to keep continuing to do that and play ball like I know how to play ball. I know the rules, but I think I abide by those rules.”
Coples said it’s hard to know where the line is between solid defensive plays and finable offenses, adding: The NFL has their interpretation as far as what they expect from us as players and we just have to go out and play football. If things like this happen, it’s just an unfortunate incident.”