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Contrite Meriweather on big hits: I'll 'play within the rules'

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Brandon Meriweather says he's sorry for his helmet-on-helmet hit on Todd Heap, and the New England Patriots safety promised Wednesday to "play within the rules" from now on.

Meriweather picked up a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness in Sunday's game after hitting the Baltimore Ravens tight end in the head in the second quarter -- a play Heap called "one of those hits that shouldn't happen." On Tuesday, Meriweather was fined $50,000 as part of the NFL's crackdown on dangerous play.

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"I'm sorry for the hit," Meriweather said. "I understand the league is trying to protect the health of all our players."

The NFL fined Meriweather and two other players Tuesday for what it said were dangerous and flagrant hits in the weekend's games. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison was docked $75,000, and Meriweather and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson will lose $50,000 each.

Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, said fines will escalate and players can be suspended for illegal hits.

Robinson and Harrison indicated they will appeal their fines. Harrison was excused from Steelers practice Wednesday and hinted that he might retire rather than change his style of play.

"I'd love for him to retire," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady jokingly said. "If he retired, it'd make me very happy."

Meriweather arrived at his locker at 12:57 p.m., 42 minutes into the Patriots' 45-minute open locker room period. Team spokesman Stacey James said Meriweather would make a statement but not take questions.

"I'm going to try my best to play within the rules, like my coach had always taught us," Meriweather said. "I'm going to hit and play the game like my coaches have always taught us. Even in training camp, we have always been taught the proper way to hit. Just focus on that and try to put it in my game in some way, shape or fashion."

Meriweather was previously best-known for his role in a 2006 brawl between the University of Miami and Florida International in which he was seen stomping on FIU players. He was suspended for one game.

"To be honest, I just want all this to go away," Meriweather said Wednesday. "I want to focus, with the rest of my team, on (Sunday's game against) the Chargers and really not let this come up again. ... From here on, I'm focusing on the Chargers. Anything else spoken about this, I will not comment on."

Brady said he hadn't seen the hit that led to his teammate's fine, adding that the players have neeeded to adjust to rule changes before and will do it again. As a quarterback, he doesn't hit people too often, and he hasn't received a lot of hits to the head, either.

"It's a dangerous game; it really is," Brady said. "I think we all signed up for this game knowing that it's dangerous. ... Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt. That's not why we play the game. But we also know the physical nature of this sport is that people do get hurt. We've all been hurt. Everybody in this locker room has been hurt. I've had four or five surgeries. It's just part of what you're signing up for."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick declined to say whether or not he would instruct his players differently.

"Right now we're talking about San Diego," he said. "That's what we're all looking forward to."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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