Jets' Smith talks about his fine, suspension for Boldin hit

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets safety Eric Smith thinks the NFL "made an example" of him with its punishment of his helmet-to-helmet hit on Arizona's Anquan Boldin a few weeks ago.

Smith was suspended and fined $50,000, including one game check, after the scary collision near the end of New York's 56-35 win on Sept. 28.

"If you compare it to the other fines and the extent and the value of the number they put on the other fines, I definitely feel that I may have been made an example of," Smith said Thursday. "It was a first offense this year, and there are a couple of second offenses that haven't been as severe as mine."

Boldin needed surgery to repair a fractured sinus and is sidelined indefinitely. Smith, in his third year, appealed the decision and insisted there was no malicious intent on his part. The league said Smith committed a flagrant violation of player safety rules and that Boldin was in a defenseless position when contact was made.

"I tried to tell them that my intention wasn't to hit him like that, but they told me intent wasn't looked at," said Smith, whose salary is $445,000. "But if intent isn't involved, then why isn't every fine the same?"

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league would have no comment on the suspension or Smith's statements.

Smith was accompanied to his appeal hearing at the NFL's offices in Manhattan last week by his agent, Buddy Baker; Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum; and a lawyer for the NFLPA. Smith said he knew he had little chance of having the penalties overturned.

"I felt that the media attention it received was really tough to win my appeal, just because of the attention it got and basically everybody knew about it," said Smith, who sat out the Jets' win Sunday against Cincinnati. "So, it was going to be tough for the NFL to change their decision on it."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who a few weeks earlier issued a player safety edict, was not present at the hearing.

"I can't say it would've helped me or hurt me either way," Smith said, "but I would've definitely liked to have talked to him about it."

With 27 seconds left in the game, Boldin tried to catch a pass from Kurt Warner in the end zone, but was hit in the back by Kerry Rhodes and then took a shot to the front of his helmet from Smith. After being worked on for several minutes, Boldin was immobilized and placed on a stretcher before he was carted off the field. No penalty was called on the play.

Smith was also briefly knocked unconscious and has no recollection of the hit -- except for what he's seen over and over on replays.

"From the first time I saw it, it looked as I'm going to hit him, I'm going to hit him in the chest," Smith said. "But when he got hit from behind, he came down into where my line of hitting was. So, if he hadn't been hit from behind, then it wouldn't have been helmet to helmet."

Smith called Boldin a few days after the collision and left him a message.

"He couldn't talk because he had just had the surgery, but he texted me back," Smith said. "Basically, he didn't hold me accountable for anything. He knew I'm not a dirty player and he basically didn't want me to change my style of play or preparation."

Smith, expected to play in the Jets' next game Sunday at Oakland, doesn't think the collision will change his approach.

"I really don't think so because, I mean, I'm not a dirty player," he said. "That wasn't my intention to hit him like that, so it was just the circumstances that resulted in the impact being helmet to helmet. I can't let that affect how I play. If I got put in the same situation where a receiver has the ball in his hands in the end zone, then I'm probably going to attack it the same way."

The league has penalized a few big hits during the last few weeks, but none as severely as Smith's.

Last week, Arizona's Adrian Wilson was fined $25,000 by the NFL for a hit on Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards. It wasn't helmet to helmet, but Edwards suffered a concussion and didn't return. League officials decided that Wilson unnecessarily drove Edwards to the ground.

Two weeks ago, Carolina's Julius Peppers was fined $10,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. A penalty was called by Ed Hochuli, wiping out Richard Marshall's interception return for a touchdown.