GAINESVILLE — With a stern look and some finger-pointing, Florida football coach Urban Meyer had harsh words for a reporter after spring practice Wednesday.
Meyer, speaking to any media for the first time in a week, confronted the Orlando Sentinel's Jeremy Fowler and defended receiver Deonte Thompson. In a blog posting on the Sentinel's Web site on Monday, Fowler had quoted Thompson as referring to John Brantley, the Gators' starting quarterback this season, as "a real quarterback" compared with Tim Tebow, and the quote was picked up by other outlets.
As about 15 or 20 reporters were hanging around after practice Wednesday, Meyer walked over to the group and began the exchange with Fowler.
"You'll be out of practice — you understand that? — if you do that again," Meyer told Fowler. "I told you (the media) five years ago: Don't mess with our players. Don't do it. You did it. You do it one more time and the Orlando Sentinel's not welcome here ever again. Is that clear? It's yes or no."
On a blog posting on the Sentinel's Web site, Fowler wrote that he responded, "Urban, come on. Don't make any threats. That's fine. I'll play by rules. But all I was doing is quoting the guy. I don't think I was the only one."
"You're a bad guy, man. You're a bad guy," Meyer said. "If that was my son, we'd be going at it right now."
Meyer then turned, walked away, met his daughter Nicki on the practice field, hugged her and pointed back at Fowler.
Meyer greeted players for about 20 minutes before leaving through another exit, avoiding reporters.
The exchange was caught on video, captured by a photographer and witnessed by a dozen or more people, including several fans leaving practice.
Thompson was quoted after Monday's practice, when he was asked what the biggest difference was between Tebow, who won a Heisman Trophy and led the Gators to two national champions before graduating after last season, and Brantley.
"You never know with Tim," Thompson said. "He can bolt. You'll think he's running, but then he'll just come up and pass it to you. You just have to be ready at all times. With Brantley, everything's with rhythm, time. Like, you know what I mean, a real quarterback."
Thompson was embarrassed by the remark and the attention it got, mostly because he likes Tebow and never wanted to say anything negative about him. As various Web sites picked up on the quote, some taking it out of context, the junior from Belle Glade was at times ridiculed or chastised for it.
Meyer, who has praised Thompson for being a good student, a hard worker and a player who has not gotten into trouble, got word of Thompson's distress and relayed his concern to school officials.
The school responded by canceling post-practice interviews Wednesday.