Ernie Sims has always felt a need to prove his worth physically. Undersized for a linebacker at 6-0, 230, the Eagles' starting weakside linebacker is always making sure that opponents view him as a threat, rather than some kind of pushover.
"I'm not the biggest linebacker, so I feel like I have to make my presence known on the field," Sims said. "People know me by now, I've been playing (football) for a long time, throwing myself around and really just trying to hit as hard as I can. That's just the type of player I am. I'm aggressive. I like hitting. It's fun to me. That's just the way I play football."
So when word came down yesterday from the league office that Sims was fined $50,000 for a forearm to the helmet of Titans wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins, deemed to be a defenseless receiver on the play in question, the linebacker wasn't totally surprised. In fact, Sims said that after reviewing the tape from the Titans game, he half-expected a fine for the play, but once he got through the bye week he thought he was home-free.
Sims received the full financial brunt of the penalty because he is a "repeat offender," but even his respect for the league-mandated increased emphasis on player safety doesn't help take the sting out of the fine.
"I really, really, hate the fact that I got fined $50,000," Sims said. "I don't care how much money you make, that's a ton of money and money that I've worked hard for my whole life. Just for anybody to take it away from me for something I do on the field, I just think it's crazy. But this is the league that I play in and I have to respect that and just go out there and keep playing football."
Sims said he will appeal the fine and hope to get the price reduced. As for the play in question, he said it was a case of playing his game at full-speed.
"We always talk about everything happens so fast on the football field in a split second," Sims said. "On that play, I was actually looking at the quarterback at the time and I did not see that there was a receiver behind me. All I knew was that the quarterback was about to throw it and so when I swung and turned my head around, I saw a receiver right there. So I just took the initiative to go ahead and take the receiver out. In their eyes, I was hitting a defenseless receiver. In my eyes, I felt like I was making a play."
Because Sims is a repeat offender, he's now in danger of getting suspended for a game by the league if he commits another illegal hit.
"I do understand that" I could be suspended for another infraction, Sims said. "They clearly stated that in my fine and that's something that I don't want to do. I don't want to get suspended. That's hurting my team. I'm a starter on this defense so I don't want to do that. I'm going to try my hardest not to put my team in that situation, but at the same time, I'm just going to play football."
"As an overall defense from a philosophical standpoint we want to be aggressive, but you have to be smart," said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott when asked about Sims' aggressive play. "You have to be smart and you have to know how they're calling things ... That's how we've addressed it with the players, is be aggressive, remain aggressive. But also play within the rules and be smart."
For his part, Sims is as worried about the future of the game as he is about his checkbook.
"I've heard people say it's going to turn into flag football and stuff like that, and I definitely don't want to be around when it turns into that. Growing up, I always thought of football just being a physical sport, that's the way I've always played it. That's one of the reasons why I play defense," Sims said. "I don't want the NFL to be this way. It's a sport, you go back in the old days, guys were hitting real hard, doing a lot more crazy stuff than we're doing now. I think that's the way it's supposed to be."
The trick now is for Sims to retain his role as an intimidator without putting defenseless players at risk.
"It's definitely going to be in the back of my mind," he said, "but I'm not going to sacrifice my technique and my effort and my tenacity on the football field for being fined like that. I don't want to jeopardize my team getting hurt or me hurting my team."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 3:13 p.m., November 4