"He came over when I was in an interview and said he thought it was legal. If the guy that was hit thought it was legal, then I don't know what to do," said Donte Whitner Tuesday after being fined $21,000 for a hit on a defenseless receiver in Thursday's win over the Rams.
Whitner struck wideout Chris Givens in the back of the end zone late in Thursday's game jarring the ball loose and preventing a touchdown catch. But he was flagged for unnecessary roughness and St. Louis would score a meaningless touchdown on the next play.
Givens reached high above his head to corral the ball while falling backwards, when Whitner led with his shoulder and delivered the blow while Givens was about to hit the ground. Whitner's shoulder hit givens in the upper-chest area and also in the face mask, jolting his head backwards.
"I know the intent is not there. If the intent isn't there, then I don't know what we can do as players – just put flags on and pull those off. Maybe fans will like that. Maybe not," Whitner said.
Whitner said he would appeal the fine as soon as he got to his car following practice Tuesday, and has since printed shirts with "#LegalHitner" printed across the chest. He's been marketing the shirts through social media.
Perhaps Whitner was a victim of his own reputation. Since entering the league, he's been known as a fierce hitter, highlighted by his momentum-changing knock on Pierre Thomas in the divisional round of the playoffs in 2011.
With the Saints driving to open the game, Whitner drilled the running back at the goal line, helmet to helmet, jarring the ball loose while knocking Thomas out at the same time.
Whitner also made a big hit in the opening series in Week 3 against the Colts' Ahmad Bradshaw in the open field and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for leading with the crown of his helmet. Following the game the NFL said he should have not been penalized for the hit.
On that play, and the play from Thursday, Whitner led with his shoulder. He went head-first against Thomas.
Clay Matthews' late hit on Colin Kaepernick in Week 1's tilt against the Packers drew a $15,000 fine from the league.
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