WASHINGTON -- Philadelphia Eagles safety Andre Waters looks like a nice enough fellow. He dresses well, his teammates like him, he sticks around after games to answer reporters' questions, even after he's heard them four or five times, and he responds politely.
So why does everyone think he's the league's reigning cheap-shot artist and worthy of the nickname "Dirty Waters"?
Waters doesn't know, but he wishes he did, and he also wishes he knew where he's going to come up with the money to cover the undisclosed fine he's just been levied by commissioner Paul Tagliabue for a hit he took to Minnesota quarterback Rich Gannon's knees last Monday.
"Of course, it's blown out of proportion," Waters said after yesterday's 13-7 loss to the Washington Redskins. He proclaimed both his innocence and his intention to appeal the fine, calling it a "raw deal."
League spokesman Greg Aiello did not divulge the amount of the fine, although he called it "a substantial amount." It was believed to be somewhere in the $10,000 range.
Waters, a seven-year veteran from Cheyney State, was fined last season for a similar hit to the legs of Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jim Everett.
When he was quarterback with the Redskins, Doug Williams complained about Waters' hitting style. And ABC commentator Dan Dierdorf heaped a torrent of criticism on Waters last Monday while replaying the hit to Gannon, calling him "the king of cheap-shot artists."
The Redskins continued to criticize Waters during the week, claiming that he had tried to maim other players.
Waters, who faced a constant stream of reporters yesterday in the Eagles' dressing room, said he agreed with a portion of what Dierdorf said last week, but not as it applied to him.
"Like he said, if you go out there to hurt someone, then you don't belong out there," said Waters. "But I just go out there and play hard-nosed football. I just play a physical game. I'm not trying to hurt nobody."
But that wasn't the end of it. The Eagles, who were whistled for three critical personal fouls for unsportsmanlike conduct or late hits in the fourth quarter, charged that league officials have it in for them, comments that are sure to draw the attention of said league officials.
"The politics in football you can't control," said quarterback Randall Cunningham. "It seems like every time we go to New York, Washington or Dallas, the referees are for the other team."
"I'm not trying to be a crybaby or anything because the game was physical," said Waters. "But it just seems like they are watching us more closely than they were watching them."
But then, it was hard to miss the Eagles' transgressions, for they were blatant and came at the wrong moments.
For example, as a second-down pass went incomplete, linebacker Byron Evans gave Washington quarterback Stan Humphries a shot to the face that gave the Redskins 15 yards and eventually led to a field goal.
On the next Washington series, cornerback Izel Jenkins and Redskins tackle Ed Simmons exchanged words, but Jenkins grabbed Simmons' facemask and received a 15-yard penalty, leading to another Washington field goal.
"Izel was defending himself and they threw the flag at him," said Waters.
On the next Philadelphia possession, after Cunningham had run for 28 yards and a first down, safety Wes Hopkins picked up a 15-yard penalty when he ran onto the field to protect Cunningham, whom he felt had been held down after the play.
"There were a lot of things going on out there that should have been called," said Hopkins.