Courtney Upshaw was tired of flying under the radar.
The second-year outside linebacker has been relatively quiet this season. He's been a consistent starter and solid defensive contributor, but hasn't made many splash plays to get him noticed.
That changed Sunday against the New York Jets, as Upshaw came up with perhaps the biggest hit of the season. The blow came on special teams, when Upshaw delivered a crushing block on linebacker Troy Davis to spring Jacoby Jones on a punt return.
"Honestly I just felt like I had to make a play," Upshaw said. "I wasn't really making enough plays on defense, so I felt like if I'm out here on special teams, why not make a play on special teams."
Jones caught the punt and reversed field to find an open running lane down the sidelines. To get Jones to the edge, Upshaw came back toward the ball and knocked an unsuspecting Davis off his feet. Jones ended up getting 37 yards on the return, and then a penalty on the Jets bench tacked on another 15 yards.
Davis left the game with a chest injury and did not return to action. Upshaw was not penalized on the play, and told reporters that he made sure he was in proper position to hit Davis without drawing a flag.
"Me being me, and liking the contact part of football, I just waited until the position where it could be legal because the fines are crazy," Upshaw said. "He got in position and I took my shot."
Upshaw, however did get flagged for a special-teams block later in the game. Jones started to find a seam in the coverage and Upshaw blocked Jets punter Ryan Quiqley hoping that Jones would continue up the field. Jones ended up getting tackled about 10 yards away and the officials flagged Upshaw for hitting the punter.
"From my understanding, they're going to protect the punters just like a quarterback," Upshaw said. "I thought it was clean. I tried to get in good position on him too. I'm not a dirty player. I'm not going to take him out."
Upshaw said that he expects to hear from the NFL about the hit on Quiqley and potentially receive a fine.
"As soon as he threw the flag, my whole thought process was that this fine is going to be crazy," Upshaw said. "I think it was clean. A lot of my teammates think it was clean. I'm sure a lot of [the media] think it was clean, and hey it is what it is."
The NFL has emphasized safety in recent years making new rules to guard against violent hits on defenseless players.
"On both of my blocks, I had to wait and size them up. There are so many different rules now," Upshaw said. "I'm not a dirty player, but I'm going to do it in a clean way, and still try to get a big hit."