Brandon Meriweather issued an apology by proxy Thursday, with the head of the NFL players' union releasing a statement saying that the Washington Redskins safety is "sorry" over comments made about targeting opponents' knees.

"I spoke to Brandon," NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said in the statement. "He is passionate about the game, and I know he is sorry for what he said. He is concentrating on helping his team win the rest of the season. Brandon knows that all players have a responsibility to each other and to play within the rules of the game."

Meriweather has been sanctioned twice by the league this season for illegal hits targeting the helmet and neck of defenceless receivers. He returned Monday from a one-game suspension and said from now on he'll have "to take people's knees out" and cause career-ending injuries.

"You've got to tear people's ACLs and mess up people's knees now," he said Monday. "You can't hit 'em high anymore."

Meriweather was venting frustration felt by many defensive players over new rules that eliminate certain hits with the goal of making the game safer. Coach Mike Shanahan said he wouldn't have used Meriweather's choice of words but added: "Now the safeties have to go lower. It's just part of the game. Nobody's going to try to hurt anybody."

"Brandon's a good guy. He's a good person, and I don't think he's going to do anything to harm the football team," defensive co-ordinator Jim Haslett said Thursday. "He said something out of emotion, the way he felt."

Meriweather also said Monday that "people who beat their girlfriends should be kicked out of the league," a retort aimed at Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall. The NFLPA said Smith's statement referred only to Meriweather's comments about tackling.

Meriweather declined to comment when approached by reporters before practice Thursday.