Panthers Mitchell: I’m being ‘targeted’ by Goodell

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell said he’s being “targeted” by Commissioner Roger Goodell after receiving his fifth fine of the season from the NFL.

Mitchell was fined $7,875 last week by the league for taunting after he shoved Rams quarterback Sam Bradford out of bounds during a game on Oct. 20. Bradford suffered a season-ending knee injury on the play.

Mitchell wasn’t penalized for taunting in the game.

“I’m being targeted because I play football physical, but I’m not out here cheap-shoting guys and doing dirty plays like I’ve seen people from Detroit do,” Mitchell said. “I’m not going to name names. But I’m not out here doing those things so why I’m getting fined I really have no idea.”

Mitchell went on to say that the fine money “goes right in Roger’s pockets — right in his pocket.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Goodell does not make the decisions regarding on-field infractions.

League policy states that the officiating department reviews every play of every game and then passes along suspect plays to executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson and vice president of football operations Merton Hanks, who then make the decision to discipline a player for an on-field violation.

“As far as our office singling out specific players, (the) enforcement of rules, including discipline, is based on actions,” McCarthy said in an email to The Associated Press. “Repeat offenses result in increased discipline. That has always been part of the system to create the proper deterrent to violations of rules.”

NFL policy also states that money collected from player fines is donated through the NFL Foundation to various programs, including those to assist former players.

Mitchell has been a valuable addition to the Panthers defense since coming to Carolina as unrestricted free agent from the Oakland Raiders.

He’s brought big-play ability and aggressiveness to a young and inexperienced secondary.

Mitchell is third on the team in tackles with 30 and has three interceptions, two forced two fumbles and two sacks in seven games.

Coach Ron Rivera said he’s been pleased with what Mitchell’s contributions to the league’s third-ranked defense.

“Mike plays very hard, physical football and has a great style, and he’s got a great brand” of football, Rivera said. “It’s spreading among our players in terms of them being physical football players. And he’s done a great job for us and I most certainly do appreciate what he’s doing for our defense.”

Mitchell said he’s appealed all four previous fines this season and at least two have been reduced.

Despite the fines, which he estimates to be in the $45,000 range, Mitchell said he has no intention of changing his approach to the game.

“I’m going to keep playing my game,” Mitchell said. “It’s working for our defense and our team. Like I said as long as I’m not getting penalized and it’s not hurting our team I’m fine with it.”

Mitchell feels like he’s been targeted by the league ever since he came into the league in 2009, adding that he’s been fined at least once in every season and more than 10 times during his NFL career.

He called the latest fine, “Roger being Roger, I guess.”

“To be honest, I think there is a little bit of a targeting system they have out. I think I’m one of the guys they’d been looking for, but I’m OK with that,” Mitchell said.

The 26-year-old Mitchell feels like he only got fined for taunting because he injured a big-name quarterback.

“If you look at the game (against the Rams), I did that same celebration earlier in the game and I didn’t get fined for that play,” Mitchell said. “I’m only getting fined for the play he got hurt on so obviously there is a bias there, there was a quarterback injured on the play and they want to fine me for that. If you’re going to fine me for the act (of taunting), then fine me for both of them.”

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