Jets safety Eric Smith has been suspended for one game and fined $50,000 for what the NFL called a flagrant violation of player safety rules for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Arizona wide receiver Anquan Boldin in the last minute of the Jets' 56-35 victory at the Meadowlands on Sunday.
The suspension will sideline Smith for the Jets' game against Cincinnati on Sunday, Oct. 12, following this weekend's bye. The fine includes the game check Smith will forfeit for the week of his suspension.
The league ruled that Smith's actions violated Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8(g) of the NFL Official Playing Rules, which prohibit:
"…using any part of a player's helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/'hairline' parts) or facemask to butt, spear, or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily; although such violent or unnecessary use of the helmet is impermissible against any opponent, game officials will give special attention in administering this rule to protect those players who are in virtually defenseless postures."
On Sept. 17, Commissioner Roger Goodell specifically advised all players of his intention to strictly enforce playing rules that promote safety on the field:
"Player safety on the field is important to all of us in the NFL," Goodell said. "Football is a tough game and we need to do everything possible to protect all players — offense, defense and special teams — from unnecessary injury caused by illegal and dangerous hits. From this point forward, you should be clear on the following point: Any conduct that unnecessarily risks the safety of other players has no role in the game of football and will be disciplined at increased levels, including on a first offense."
Smith talked about the play in the Jets locker room today, about 24 hours after it occurred at the Jets goal line with 27 seconds to play. Smith got up slowly while Boldin lay on the Meadowlands turf for minutes before his head was immobilized and he was carted off the field and taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York for precautionary reasons.
"You never want to see something like that," said Smith. "It was better because I had heard he was doing all right. They were keeping him for precautions. But if I'd just seen it on the field, I'd have been really worried about it."
Smith said he still doesn't remember the hit, but having seen replays of the play and been told about it by teammates, he knows what his reasoning was that, along with safety Kerry Rhodes' bumping of Boldin from behind, led to the collision.
"I'm coming in to break up a pass and if I don't, it's going to be a touchdown," he said. "So I'm going 100 percent, so is Kerry from the backside. Sometimes somebody gets hit, angles change and things like that happen. It's not like I was directly leading with the top of my head, from what I saw on the film."
Jets head coach Eric Mangini defended his third-year safety.
"Knowing Eric as well as I do, he's a good guy," Mangini said at this afternoon's news conference. "He's never looking to do something that's out of the rules. Ideally, nobody is. That's just not his personality or anything like that. And you don't ever want to see someone lying on the turf, not being sure what his status is. I'm sure the last thing he ever wanted to do was that. The thing he was trying to do was break up the play and prevent a score.
"You never coach to go head-to-head," Mangini said. "You don't want to see it. You don't want to see it against your guys, you don't want to see your guys doing it against someone else's guys. Nobody wants that. I know that's the last thing Eric wants as well."
The New York Jets issued a statement tonight that reads:
"We respect and support the League's emphasis on player safety. Knowing Eric, we are confident that he did not intend to injure Anquan Boldin. Anquan was hit from behind by another player that accelerated the collision with Eric. Our thoughts are with Anquan and we hope that he has a healthy recovery."
Boldin was released from the hospital and returned to Phoenix on Sunday night. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said today that "all the test results were positive," but he wouldn't speculate if Boldin could play Sunday against Buffalo.
Jets safety Abram Elam, who grew up with Boldin in Florida and called the Cardinal's mother Sunday night, said it was "very difficult" watching the result of the collision.
"I saw Eric Smith, who is my teammate, on the ground and a friend of mine, Anquan Boldin," Elam said. "It was really tough knowing in this game every moment out there on the field you put your life in jeopardy sometimes. I am grateful they were able to get off the field."