Patriots' Wilfork fined for third time this season

New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork has been fined $15,000 by the NFL for what the league considered unsportsmanlike conduct during last Saturday night's regular-season finale against the New York Giants.

The fine is the third this season against the Pro Bowl defender.

The sanction against Wilfork, a four-year veteran, was first reported by The Boston Globe and was confirmed to ESPN.com by league officials.

Wilfork was accused of poking his finger in the face mask of Giants tailback Brandon Jacobs. The play occurred late in the first half and Wilfork was not penalized by game officials.

On the play in question, Giants quarterback Eli Manning completed a seven-yard pass to tight end Kevin Boss with about 30 seconds remaining in the half. With the clock running and the Giants in a hurry-up offense, game officials penalized Patriots linebacker Junior Seau for delay of game for intentionally interfering with Boss as he tried to get up and make his way back to the line of scrimmage.

There was some jostling between the two teams, and during the brief skirmish, it appeared Wilfork poked his finger toward Jacobs' face. Wilfork later said the act was accidental and that he was not trying to provoke the Giants tailback. But league officials determined during their routine video review of the games that the action did constitute unsportsmanlike conduct.

It is not known if Wilfork, the Patriots' first-round pick in the 2004 draft, will appeal the fine.

In earlier incidents this season, Wilfork was fined $5,000 for drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct foul during the Oct. 14 game at Dallas. He also drew a $12,500 fine for a low hit on Buffalo Bills quarterback J.P. Losman during a Sept. 23 game. On that play, in which Wilfork appeared to drive his arm into Losman's knee, Losman suffered a sprained knee ligament that sidelined him for two games.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.