After last Wednesday's game, I asked Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith if he'd been aware, while he was making it, that his horse-collar tackle of New York Giants linebacker Michael Boley just as Boley was about to cross the goal line on his interception return was illegal. Smith said that indeed he had been aware of that, but that he didn't care, because it was worth it to keep Boley out of the end zone. The penalty, enforced at the 2-yard line, was only for 1 yard (half the distance to the goal line) and the Giants couldn't punch it in, so they settled for a field goal. Effectively, Smith's hustle and illegal tackle saved the Cowboys four points.
However, the NFL put the horse-collar rule in place in order to protect players from serious injury. And as a result, the NFL would very much like its players to care about the legality of such tackles before they make them. To that end, according to Fox Sports Southwest, the NFL is fining Smith $15,570 for the tackle of Boley.
It was clear after the game that Smith had no regrets about the play. And he is two years into a $12.5 million contract, so he can afford the fine money. The league's goal is to discourage him from doing it again, since the fine would be higher the next time. And while the odds of Smith having to or being able to make such a play again are slim, my sense is that, in the heat of the moment, he probably wouldn't be worrying about being fined.