Patriots' Wilfork fined $5,000 for face-mask infraction against Chargers

For the fourth time this season, New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork has been sanctioned by the league, with the latest instance a $5,000 fine for a face-mask penalty in last week's AFC Championship Game victory over the San Diego Chargers.

Wilfork called the fine -- first reported by The Boston Globe and confirmed by league and team sources -- "ridiculous," and suggested he will appeal the punishment.

"I don't want to get into it [publicly] with the NFL," Wilfork said. "They'll probably fine me or suspend me [for criticism]. That's something I'll have to take care of in the offseason."

The fourth-year veteran was fined for a play that occurred with about five minutes remaining in the first quarter last Sunday. On first-and-10 from the New England 40, Chargers running back Michael Turner carried over left guard for five yards, and Wilfork grabbed his face mask as he attempted to make the tackle.

Wilfork drew a 15-yard personal foul penalty, and the Chargers gained a first down at the Patriots 20-yard line. The possession culminated in a 26-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding, giving the Chargers a 3-0 lead.

His biggest fine of the season, for $15,000, came in the regular-season finale against the New York Giants, when he poked his finger in the face of tailback Brandon Jacobs. The Giants' tailback referenced the play earlier this week when asked about his motivation for the rematch against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Wilfork allowed that the play was "stupid," and said he didn't 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, when he tangled with Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

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.

He appealed both those sanctions, and the fine for the Losman hit was reduced by $2,500.

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