Calais Campbell didn't mean to hit Cam Newton low. The Cardinals defensive tackle made that clear when, during Thursday's "Big Red Rage with Calais Campbell", he talked about the hit heard round the world (thanks to Newton's angry comments postgame and subsequent talk with commissioner Rogert Goodell.)
Campbell was fined $18,231 for the play, which was not flagged. The fact it wasn't flagged is what got under Newton's skin after the game.
"Honestly when I watched the play, I beat my man pretty clean but I kind of tangled my feet," Campbell said. "I was trying to catch my balance. I always know you can't hit a quarterback below the knees, you try to get him in the thigh. And actually, my initial hit was in his thigh but my momentum carried forward and I got him below.
"It sucks. I never want to get a guy in an awkward position like that, especially a guy that I respect as a football player. I respect everybody who gets out there. I know how hard everybody works to be an NFL football player. It's not easy. We go through a lot of preparation, a lot of training to be where we are at. I never want to see a guy go down and be out for the season, especially at my doing. I definitely talked to him and apologized because it was definitely an accident."
Newton was having none of the apology at the time, which came immediately after the play. "I probably should've waited until after the game," Campbell said. "But it's a natural reaction."
(Cardinals DL Rodney Gunter was also fined $18,231 for his unnecessary roughness takedown of Newton prior to the Campbell hit. Some have asked about this hit by Panthers defensive back Daryl Worley on Carson Palmer was also illegal. Worley was not flagged, and he was not fined either. Cornerback Leonard Johnson was fined $9,115 for the hit in which he "removed" Palmer's helmet. Johnson was flagged.)
Newton was already angry in the game. On an earlier running play -- in which Newton dove head-first to get more yards and was met by flying safety D.J. Swearinger -- Newton was upset at Swearinger's hit, which appeared clean. Newton had words with Swearinger, Kevin Minter and Markus Golden at various times.
Later this week, Newton said he understood he doesn't get QB protection as a runner, but felt he didn't get enough protection from the officials when he was in the pocket -- for example, the Campbell hit.
As for Campbell, he is appealing the fine.
"You have to appeal it," Campbell said. "It wasn't on purpose, it wasn't malicious. And 18,000 dollars is a lot of money to spend for a bad football play."