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49ers safety Donte Whitner fined $21,000 by NFL for big hit

  • St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook, right, catches a pass for an 18-yard gain after it was tipped by San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner, left, during the second quarter of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

SANTA CLARA -- Safety Donte Whitner has printed up 125 T-shirts with the term "#LegalHitner" for his fans. At $28 each, he'll need to sell a slew more to cover the $21,000 fine he drew Tuesday, a result of his illegal hit that broke up a potential touchdown catch in the 49ers' win last Thursday at St. Louis.

Whitner planned to immediately appeal the career-high fine, and he twice noted how "the league is changing" in regard to legal hits.

"If the intent isn't there, I don't know what we can do as players. Maybe we should put flags on and pull those off," Whitner said. "Maybe fans will like that. Maybe not."

Linebacker Ahmad Brooks expressed disbelief over the fine and echoed Whitner's concerns about the NFL's direction.

"Oh, it's definitely changing, and all for the offense," Brooks said. "Defense has no regulations in our favor, and it's messed up, especially on the defensive line. Ian Williams got chopped and is out for the year (with a broken ankle)."

After Whitner dislodged a potential touchdown pass from Chris Givens in the end zone, referee Jeff Triplette announced that Whitner had hit a defenseless receiver. A 15-yard penalty was enforced, and the Rams promptly scored their only touchdown on the ensuing snap.

"Still in my heart, it's legal and I can't change the way I play," Whitner said. "I was going to the midsection where the ball is with my shoulder. You can actually see me turn and lay off the hit. If I ran through him, I could see it."

A month earlier, the Green Bay Packers' Clay Matthews clothes-lined Colin Kaepernick with a late hit and drew a $15,000 fine. Brooks got fined $12,750 for hitting Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. A league spokesman said he couldn't immediately confirm Whitner's fine.

"To see $21,000, you'd think I knocked the guy out. But I didn't," Whitner said. " ... I don't know what Clay Matthews was fined, but I know (my) intent was not there."

Whitner claimed his coaches and even Givens told him after the game it was a legal, "good hit." He added that he is a first-time offender for such an unnecessary-roughness fine.

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