With less than five minutes to spare during the media's locker room access period, safety Brandon Meriweatherslowly approached his locker. Dozens of reporters and photographers had swarmed there to elicit his reaction to being fined $50,000 by the NFL for what one league official termed "egregious" hits against Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heapthis past Sunday.
"Once again, I want to say I'm sorry for the hit," Meriweather began. "I understand the league is trying to protect the health of all our players, but …"
At that point, Meriweather paused, apparently in an attempt to control his emotions from getting the better of him.
"I don't even know how to put it," he continued finally. "To be honest, I just want all this to go away, you know what I mean? I want to focus, with the rest of my team, on the Chargers and really not let this come up again. I'm going to try my best to play within the rules, like my coach had always taught us. I'm going to hit and play the game like my coaches have always taught us. Even in training camp, we have always been taught the proper way to hit. Just focus on that and try to put it in my game in some way, shape or fashion.
"And, from here on, I'm focusing on the Chargers. Anything else spoken about this, I will not comment on."
Meriweather did field one question about this Sunday's matchup with San Diego, but the theme of the day, judging by reporters' questions in the New England locker room and in media outlets around the nation, was the league's decision to fine Meriweather, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison, and Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinsonfor similar actions in their games.
Meriweather's defensive teammate, linebacker and co-captain Jerod Mayo, was asked if the severity of the fine surprised him.
"A little bit, but at the same time, those are the rules," he acknowledged. "You just have to adjust. You still have to go out there and play football, try to get he ball off of guys, just do it in a legal way."
"They make rules and we have to follow them," echoed QB Tom Brady.
"You get trained as a player and everyone's just trying to go out there and make the play. Sometimes I guess guys cross the line. Sometimes guys are trying to do it within the rules that are set for us. It's a very instinctive game out there," Brady theorized.
He maintained that he hasn't seen the hits in question that led to Meriweather's fined, but Brady did seem to express some frustration at the inconsistency of the rulings regarding such devastating blows.
"[League administrators are] going to enforce the rules however they see fit. We show up one week and they say, 'Well, this is how the rules are now.' That's just the way it works for players and we learn to make adjustments with that. It's not the first time they've changed a rule here during the season. It's just what they do.
"But we also know the physical nature of this sport is that people do get hurt," he added. "We've all been hurt. Everybody in this locker room has been hurt. I've had four or five surgeries. It's just part of what you're signing up for."
Another Harrison, former Patriots safety Rodney, made some interesting remarks as well during an appearance on Sirius NFL Radio. Now a football analyst for NBC, Rodney Harrison was well-known for his vicious hits (and many subsequent fines) during his playing days in San Diego and New England.
He revealed that he spoke to Meriweather, with whom he was close when he played for the Patriots.
"I asked Brandon point blank, 'If the NFL fines you a great deal of money or if they suspend you, will this change the way you play?' He told me absolutely," Harrison said on Sirius. "That's the message the NFL is sending and I think a lot of players will echo that same sentiment."
Harrison also insisted that Meriweather is not a dirty player – a label applied to Harrison frequently when he was a player.
"I told him specifically 'Brandon, I'm calling you today because I don't want you to make the same mistake I made – hitting guys and being known as a dirty player and having that reputation,'" Harrison added.
"I said, 'I made only two Pro Bowls, and I compare my career up to all the best safeties. I made two Pro Bowls because everyone considered me a dirty player and didn't appreciate what I actually did on the field. You're too good of a player, you're a hard-hitting guy, a playmaker, I don't want you to fall into the trap I did.' I told him to take your medicine and come back and play. He said 'Rodney, I will lower my hitting area. I will have to lower my hitting area.'"
Brady eventually found a way to inject some humor into the serious subject. In the case of the Steelers' Harrison, the Pittsburgh linebacker asked to be excused from practice on Wednesday because he told reporters he is seriously considering retiring from football. He's unsure, he reasoned, if he'll be an effective player if he's forced to change his hitting style.
The Patriots face the Steelers on the road next month, so a reporter asked Brady for his thoughts on Harrison's comments.
"I'd love for him to retire. If he retired, it'd make me very happy," he replied, drawing a few laughs.
Faulk's surgery scheduled
Running back Kevin Faulkmade a brief appearance in the locker room and gave the media an interesting nugget of info. He revealed that his ACL surgery will take place tomorrow (Thursday) here in Massachusetts.
Faulk was injured in Week 2 at the Jets, but the surgery couldn't be scheduled until his knee swelling had subsided sufficiently for doctors to perform the procedure.
Wed 10/20 Practice Notebook
For news and notes from Wednesday's practice, please visit the PFW Blog.