A few days after the NFL fined him a fifth time, Mike Mitchell said he believes the league is targeting him and directed a few pointed words at commissioner Roger Goodell.
A sixth fine for his comments Monday might be forthcoming for the Panthers physical and outspoken free safety.
Mitchell was one of five St. Louis and Carolina players fined for their roles in the fights and shoving matches during the second half of the Panthers 30-15 victory on Oct. 20.
Mitchell, a former Oakland Raiders player in his first year with the Panthers, was docked $7,875 for taunting after a fourth-quarter hit on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, who sustained a season-ending knee injury on the play. Mitchell celebrated in front of the St. Louis bench, but said he didnt realize Bradford had been injured.
Mitchell wasnt surprised when the FedEx envelope arrived from the league office last week.
Roger being Roger, I guess, Mitchell said. To be honest, I think there is a little bit of a targeting system they have out. And I think Im one of the guys theyve been looking for, but Im OK with that. The coaches and my teammates know who I am, know the type of player I am.
Mitchell said his five fines this year have totaled close to $45,000 money that has gone right in Rogers pocket, he said.
And Mitchell doesnt believe the latest fine will be his last.
Theres going to be (more). We have nine games left, and Im not going to change the way that I play, Mitchell said. Im not getting penalties. Im not playing dirty. Im not hitting anyone to the head. If you want to fine me on these little judgmental things, keep them coming. Its a write-off.
Mitchell, the Raiders second-round pick in 2009 from Ohio University, said hes been fined more than 10 times during his career.
Mitchells arrival in the league coincided with the implementation of a rule prohibiting defenders from striking a defenseless receiver in the head fouls Goodell pledged to crack down on the following year following a spate of vicious hits during a single weekend.
Mitchell believes players with reputations as big hitters are being singled out, saying hes been fined every year hes been in the NFL.
Im just being targeted because I play football and Im physical. Im not out here cheap-shotting guys or doing dirty plays like youve seen people from Detroit do, said Mitchell, referring to oft-fined Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Im not doing those things. So why Im getting fined I really have no idea, Mitchell added. But Im going to keep playing my game. Its working for our defense and our team.
Mitchell missed the opener against Seattle with a calf injury and didnt become a starter until Week 3, following a season-ending Achilles injury to Charles Godfrey. Hes the only player in the league with at least three interceptions and two sacks, and has helped bring a swagger to the Panthers third-ranked defense.
Hes a presence back there in the secondary. And you know those guys. When youre on offense prepping for teams like that, you take notice of guys like that, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said. Hes back there lurking, and hes looking to make those big hits. But I think also, what people dont realize, is hes good in coverage.
Olsen also praised the tackling ability of Mitchell, whose 28 solo stops rank third on the team behind linebackers Thomas Davis (35) and Luke Kuechly (32).
Godfrey believes Mitchell plays with a controlled violence, but said he has to play a little bit smarter on some of those plays.
Since picking up a personal foul penalty against Baltimore in the preseason, Mitchell said hes tried to slow down when approaching a ball-carrier on his way to the ground.
Hes only been penalized once during the regular season an unnecessary roughness call for hitting Arizona running back Andre Ellington near the sideline in Week 5. He was not fined for the hit.
Ive definitely cut down on the personal foul penalties. As long as Im not getting flags that are hurting the team, Mitchell said. Youre going to fine me for something thats not getting flagged, thats their judgment.
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