Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon has been fined by the NFL for this late hit on Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. Vernon will appeal the decision, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.
Mariota suffered a sprained MCL as a result of the controversial play, but insisted that he did not think there was any malice in the tackle, per Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com. Mariota’s coach Ken Whisenhunt was not as forgiving though and, in the same report, he stated that he had no doubt it was deliberate.
“I’ve never been a dirty player. I never intended to hurt anyone. I even checked to make sure Marcus was ok. #mariotagetwellsoon” – Vernon on Twitter
“I think it was B.S.,” he said. “That’s not the way you play football. I think it was done with the idea of trying to hurt our quarterback, and that’s bulls— football.” Vernon was quick to defend himself though, “I’ve never been a dirty player. I never intended to hurt anyone. I even checked to make sure Marcus was ok. #mariotagetwellsoon,” he tweeted on Monday.
Vernon was flagged for roughing the passer on the play, but he maintained he is not a dirty player. “I know one thing – it wasn’t intentional,” he told Kuharsky. “I’ve never been a dirty player in my whole career. Nobody tries to get personal fouls. I know one thing, they are expensive.” Mariota seemed to negate any talk of foul play though, and when talking about getting hit, he told the Titans Twitter account “It’s part of the game. It’s a violent sport and that’s what we signed up for.”
The amount of the fine was not revealed but the hit clearly affected Mariota’s mobility in Sunday’s game. While the rookie quarterback’s movement was limited, a fully-functioning Mariota still would not have changed the outcome of the game. The Dolphins dominated Tennessee and ran out 38-10 winners.
Aggression and intensity have been the traits that interim head coach Dan Campbell has brought to a Dolphins defense that had underperformed massively in the first four games of the season. And Campbell’s influence on the Phins D was clear to see against the Titans.
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By the end of play, a unit that only had one sack in four games had six in an hour, four of which came courtesy of AFC Defensive Player of the Week Cameron Wake. Campbell took the leash off a defensive line that had been labelled as the best in the league in preseason, and the results were impressive.
According to Salguero’s Twitter account, Campbell has defended Vernon and told the fourth-year defensive end that he is not a dirty player. The new Dolphins head coach apparently even had a heart-to-heart with Vernon on the practice field.
While Campbell’s new hard-hitting ethos is to dominate the opposition, he has made it clear that dirty play is not part of his game plan. Vernon’s appeal will unlikely be successful, due to the nature of the hit and the fact that a bright young quarterback sprained his MCL as a result of it. The league is clamping down hard on the way in which you can make contact with signal callers, so expect Vernon to have an example made of him.