LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte thought someone was playing a joke on him when he found an email at his locker stall saying he'd been fined $21,000 for contact to the head of Carolina Panthers receiver Brandon LaFell last Sunday.
"I didn't think it was real," Conte said after practice Friday. "I thought it was a prank. Then I realized it wasn't a prank very quickly. It hurts a lot."
It hurts because Conte makes about $27,500 per game. He acknowledged he was basically "playing for free" this weekend against Tennessee, though he is appealing the fine.
"I love football so I don't mind (the fine), but I'd like to get paid," he said. "That's a big chunk of money that I make. I think it's kind of unfair to fine a guy that's on his rookie contract that much money, but hopefully they will look at it and get it reduced."
Conte said the league cited hitting a defenseless player in the head as reason for the fine. Coach Lovie Smith wasn't as surprised by the fine as much as the fact a penalty was called.
"I'm Conte's coach, so I was little surprised they called it," Smith said. "But they explained it and now that they explained it to us I can see why they fined him. If a guy gets penalized for something like that in a game, he'll be getting a fine next week. That's protocol."
Conte said he will not change his style of play.
"I don't think you can let it affect you," he said. "You have to play football the way you play football and be aggressive. It comes with the job."
Conte initially thought one of his teammates was playing a joke on him. They've been known to do so.
"They'll make up a fake email or something, and that's what I thought it was," Conte said. "Then I looked on the website and it was no joke, that's for sure."
Fined $10,000 was Dolphins rookie tackle Jonathan Martin.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.