|Bears safety Chris Conte first thought he was being punked, only to learn that the $21,000 fine from the NFL office for a blow to the helmet in Sunday's game against Carolina was very real. (US Presswire)|
When Chicago Bears second-year S Chris Conte received a sheet of paper saying he'd been fined $21,000 for a blow to the helmet of Brandon LaFell in Sunday's 23-22 win over Carolina, he couldn't help but feel he was being punked.
After all, kicker Robbie Gould and DE Israel Idonije had pulled pranks on younger teammates in the past and this didn't look like the FedEx letter he thought he'd get notifying him of a punishment.
"I thought it was a prank," Conte said. "Then I realized it wasn't a prank very quickly.
"It hurts a lot. That's a big chunk of the money that I make and I think it's kind of unfair to fine a guy that is still in his rookie contract that much money, but hopefully they'll take a look at it and at least get it reduced."
Conte has filed an appeal. Essentially he said he'll be "playing for free" this week against the Titans.
Conte signed a four-year, $2.603 million deal as a rookie before the 2011 season.
Coach Lovie Smith said the league explained the fine as automatic because Conte had been penalized on the play.
"Normally you get a flag thrown, you get fined," he said. "It's kind of simple as that now. ... That's the protocol.
"He's been fined one time. As I said, he wasn't trying to hurt anyone, but those things happen. Sometimes when you break the rules, even if you're not trying to, there are consequences to pay. Simple as that."
It seemed somewhat apparent Smith didn't think his player should get fined so much from the way he spoke facetiously about the money Conte has to pay.
"It's the NFL. Guys make a lot of money," coach Lovie Smith said. "That's what y'all (reporters) say. Guys make a lot of money. So I'm sure they can handle the fine.
"What's a $21,000 fine, you know?"
Conte said his playing style will be unaffected even if he was upset with the fine.
"I don't think you can let it affect you," he said. "You've got to play football the way you play football and be aggressive, and I guess these things are just a part of the NFL now and it comes with the job."
Follow Bears reporter Gene Chamberlain on Twitter @CBSBears.