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Tuesday, November 1, 2011
McDonald on playing dirty

By Pedro Moura

USC's T.J. McDonald apologized as soon as his half-game suspension was announced by the Pac-12 office on Monday and again on Tuesday, but the junior safety continues to maintain he didn't deserve the penalties assessed to him.

He said there's nothing he could've done differently on his fourth-quarter hit on Stanford receiver Chris Owusu that was whistled for targeting a defenseless receiver. The 15-yard penalty gave the Cardinal a key first down and led to their tying touchdown with less than a minute left.

"I don't feel like I could've," he said Tuesday. "I feel like I was put in a position to where I was trying to separate the receiver from the ball, and that's my job. I feel like if I wouldn't have hit him, he would have had a chance to catch the ball, and that's a big-time play in the game. So I just did what my instincts told me to do, come downhill and try to make a physical play.

"Anybody that knows my personality, that knows my character, knows that I'm not a dirty player by any means."

Sparking talk of being a dirty player, McDonald now has been called for four personal-foul penalties this season. Last month, he told the Fresno Bee he'd "rather be called a dirty player than a soft player."

But he insists he is honestly trying to fix what he admits is now an issue: He doesn't want to be known as dirty just because he plays physically. So, since Saturday's game, he has worked on finding a solution to keep the physical aspect of his game and eliminate the penalties.

"I talked it over with my dad, talked it over with coaches, and the biggest thing is that on some of those plays, maybe the collision looks bigger if you don't wrap up and you come across the field and you just hit him and they bounce off you," McDonald said. "It looks like a way bigger collision.

"In the future, when I get in that same position, just bring my arms and wrap up and maybe that call won't be called and it'll look more like a tackle."

He vehemently says it will not change the style of his play.

"That won't take away from my aggressiveness," McDonald said. "Once you shy away from that, that changes my whole game. That's what my whole game is built off of -- physicality and being aggressive. I'm not gonna change me being aggressive, but I have to change the way I go about it. It'd be selfish of me to make my team pay 15 yards every time, especially in a crucial point in the game like that.

"So I gotta figure out a way to just make sure I can still be physical but stay within the rules of football."