Antonio Smith frustrated, but far from dirty

HOUSTON -- Frustrations on the football field have gotten the best of Antonio Smith before. He's not the first player to get frustrated by the tactics of Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, nor is this the first time he's been frustrated by Incognito.

What Smith did Saturday night was unacceptable. No player should ever rip off another player's helmet, much less swing it at him. He deserves discipline. But this doesn't mean he is a dirty player.

This was a split-second decision for Smith, who had Incognito hanging on to his face mask with no repercussions. He reacted in a way he shouldn't have, ripping off Incognito's helmet and swinging it in his direction. It wasn't premeditated. He didn't make contact and didn't make a second attempt to do it, immediately dropping the helmet.

We haven't spoken to Smith about this yet. After Saturday night's game, he declined to talk about Incognito or the specific incident, likely recalling that talking about it didn't go so well for him last time.

I've heard Smith get pretty fired up about rules and fines imposed on defensive players in the past. He strongly believes they are disproportionately meted out on defensive players over offensive players.

That kind of frustration is what led to the 2012 version of Smith vs. Incognito, when Smith kicked to release his leg from Incognito's grasp. Smith called Incognito's play in that game dirty and said the guard got away with plenty. The league disagreed and deemed Incognito faultless. It fined Smith $21,000, a number later reduced to $11,000 on appeal. Incognito said that "dirty" label was outdated and even showed reporters cut-ups of the play on his iPad as he pleaded his case.

To be clear, Smith couldn't have killed Incognito. That opinion is a bit overwrought. But he deserves discipline, which our Ed Werder reports could be at least one regular-season game's suspension. That won't be good for him or the Texans.

Smith had seven sacks in 2012, a career high. The 3-4 defensive end isn't a position that is supposed to generate that much of a pass rush, but the Texans got their most significant such contributions from theirs last year.

Smith is also entering a contract year, after discussions for an extension stalled without much progress.