- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley gained what his teammates and coaches said was an unfair reputation this season of being a dirty player.
"Oh yeah, we've seen he's got a lot of dirty plays, throwing people around after the play and things like that," Thomas said Thursday. "But that's just football. I don't worry about it because it's a physical game."
Fairley, the Lombardi Award winner, was especially hard on quarterbacks. He knocked Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett out of the game with a concussion, and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray also had to leave the game in the fourth quarter after being hit in the knee by Fairley.
Earlier in that game, Fairley was penalized 15 yards for spearing Murray in the back with his helmet.
Thomas said he wasn't sweating the 6-5, 298-pound Fairley coming after him Monday night in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.
"If it happens, it happens," Thomas said. "You've just got to get back up for the next play."
Fairley, who led the SEC with 10½ sacks, has shrugged off the season-long chatter of his being a dirty player, and he did again Thursday.
"I just go out there and give it 110 percent," Fairley said. "I go out there and try to make plays for my team. If it's me playing dirty, if that's what they call it, that's what it is."
Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof acknowledged getting Fairley to tone it down this season with some of his antics after the play, but doesn't buy the rap that Fairley is dirty.
"He plays hard, and he plays physical, and we don't apologize for that," Roof said.
Chris Low covers the SEC for ESPN.com.
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