|At 6 feet 2 inches, 325 pounds, body control is often out of Vince Wilfork's hands. (ROBERT E. KLEIN/FOR THE GLOBE)|
Wilfork hit with $12,500 fine by NFL
He insists play wasn't dirty
FOXBOROUGH - Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork is good at shedding blockers. Now he's trying to shed the notion that his hit last Sunday on Buffalo Bills quarterback J.P. Losman, a blow that resulted in a $12,500 fine yesterday from the NFL, was a dirty play.
A flailing Wilfork struck Losman square on the left knee with his right elbow on Buffalo's first offensive snap, a 4-yard completion to Marshawn Lynch. Wilfork received a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer and Losman had to leave the game at the conclusion of the series with a sprained knee.
News of the fine wasn't known yesterday when an emotional Wilfork defended his actions and reputation. He said the hit was unintentional and that he deeply resented being characterized as a dirty player. Wilfork blamed a misinterpretation of the comments he made on WEEI Monday, when he said he expected to be fined and that he wasn't "losing any sleep over it," for part of the negative backlash.
"The only reason I talked about a fine is they got a rule for quarterbacks, you hit them below the waist and you are subject to a fine," said Wilfork. "A lot of people probably think Wilfork don't care; he's looking for the fine. That wasn't the fact. I got penalized for that. There are consequences.
"Now, did I mean to do that? Far from it. If you know me as a person or a player, then it wouldn't be an issue because they know I have too much love and respect for this game and for players for me to ever be a dirty player. If you don't know me, don't judge me, point blank.
"You've got a lot of people out there saying, 'That was a dirty hit.' If you don't know me, get to know me because if you know me, that won't be a question. I'm not a dirty player."
Losman and other Bills players weren't convinced. They felt Wilfork's fine wasn't enough.
"I watched the tape once and it was enough for me," Losman told Buffalobills.com, the team's website. "It was pretty nasty. It looked like he had an opportunity to pull up. He's trying to make a play for his team and it's football, but I think he got off easy."
Said Buffalo linebacker Coy Wire, "Is [$12,500] worth your starting quarterback missing however many games? I don't think so."
Wilfork said he lost his balance on the play with one Bills lineman tripping him and another at his left leg. The 6-foot-2-inch, 325-pound Wilfork said body control is a luxury he doesn't have at his weight.
"You're tripping at 300-something pounds, I have no idea what's going on," said Wilfork. "I have no idea where my arm is at. I mean, like I said, it wasn't intentional and that's the main thing I want to get out. It wasn't intentional. For everybody to say that I'm a dirty player or that was a dirty blow, not at all. Like I said, if you know me as a person, you'll understand that."
Bills general manager Marv Levy, who was in the press box at Gillette Stadium for his team's 38-7 loss, admitted his stance on the play has softened.
"When I saw what happened, I was irate," said Levy. "But I've looked at the film countless times to see if there was propulsion from another player that sent him into that position at that speed. It's hard to tell. I'm not going to throw forth an accusation. I can't say it was an obvious dirty play."
Levy said Losman will not play Sunday against the New York Jets. Rookie Trent Edwards, who relieved Losman against New England, will get the start. Levy estimated Losman would be out four to six weeks. That would put Losman on track to be back before the Bills host the Patriots Nov. 18.
Wilfork might be public enemy No. 1 in upstate New York by that time, or if Edwards plays well, he could be the Bills' version of former Jets linebacker Mo Lewis, who cleared the way for the Tom Brady Era with a scary - but legal - hit on Drew Bledsoe in 2001.
Wilfork, who played with Buffalo wide receiver Roscoe Parrish at the University of Miami, said he has attempted to reach out to Losman to express his regret about the injury and let him know the hit was unintentional.
"A player was hurt and I had something to do with it. I'll be trying to get him, trust me," Wilfork said.
Losman didn't seem eager to accept an apology.
"I don't think there's an apology needed," Losman said. "I'm not looking for an apology. At this point, the damage is done. An apology will do nothing at this point. I'm fortunate that it wasn't as serious as I thought initially."
So, it seems the big nose tackle's reputation has taken just as big a hit as Losman's knee. That bothers Wilfork.
"Yeah, when I leave this earth, I'm going to leave with one thing and that's my name," said Wilfork. "Don't bash my name just because of one incident. It's all good as long as he understands that it wasn't intentional and that organization knows that wasn't intentional, I'm fine. Let's move on to Cincinnati."
Mike Reiss of the Globe staff contributed to this report.