Rashad apologizes for hit on Vernon

North Carolina freshman linebacker Shakeel Rashad apologized to Duke receiver Conner Vernon for hitting him during a substitution, a play that earned him a one-game suspension from the ACC on Monday.

Rashad said in a statement: "I want to apologize to Duke’s Conner Vernon for running into him during Saturday’s game. I was in a hurry to get on the field and focused on where I was going. I have been playing football for most of my life and I have never been involved in that type of incident. I did not mean to run into him and I’m glad he was not hurt. He’s a great receiver and I wish him the best."

North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham also released a statement, as did coach Larry Fedora. Cunningham was disappointed the league did not speak to Rashad before handing down its punishment.

"We are certainly glad that Conner Vernon was not injured," Cunningham said in his statement. "I spoke to Shakeel in the locker room after the game and he was obviously upset about making contact, but insisted that it was unintentional and a result of rushing to get on the field as quickly as he could. We are disappointed with the decision to suspend him for a game. I don’t understand how the conference can suspend a player who was involved in such an unusual play without speaking to him."

Fedora's statement: "Shakeel is a really good kid who would never intentionally attempt to injure another player. Obviously, it was an unusual play, but knowing the type of young man that Shakeel is, I know he did not intentionally make contact with Conner. We were still making substitutions as Duke was lining up for its next play. Shakeel was trying to get on the field as quickly as possible and inadvertently ran into the receiver. We spoke after the game and Shakeel said he did not mean to collide with him. We’re just glad that no one was injured."