The Nihon University football player under fire for a vicious cheap shot said his coach ordered him to “break” the quarterback or be benched, a teammate told The Asahi Shimbun on May 17.

“I heard from the defensive player that he was told by the head coach to ‘break’ the opponent’s quarterback if he wanted to play in the game,” the student-player said.

The quarterback in American football is the key player on offense. “Breaking a player” is an indirect expression for injuring the player.

Masato Uchida, head coach of the university team, denied ordering the illegal tackle in a written response to a formal complaint from the quarterback’s team, Kwansei Gakuin University, in Hyogo Prefecture.

Kwansei Gakuin University team officials rejected Uchida’s explanation.

The late hit from behind came well after the quarterback had released the ball on the first play of the game in Tokyo’s Chofu on May 6.

The quarterback suffered injuries to his knee and lower back and could not return to the field.

The defensive player was later ejected from the game after committing other fouls.

Uchida in the letter said the player’s dirty actions were the result of miscommunication over his instructions to play tough on the field.

But now, the coach’s own players are calling on him to tell the truth.

Another Nihon University player told The Asahi Shimbun that he heard from a teammate that “the head coach gave the instructions.”

The player described Uchida as a “tough” coach whose “presence” silenced any objections from the players.

“I want the university to tell the truth that there were instructions (from the head coach),” the student said. “We are not chess pieces of the coaches.”

The player also said he would quit the team if the truth is withheld from the team’s next report on the incident.

Nihon University told the Kwansei Gakuin University team in the letter that an internal investigation into the player’s actions was ongoing, and that another report will be issued on May 24 at the latest.