Smith says lesson learned after ejection

Harrison Smith had about 24 hours of nervousness wondering what discipline he would receive from the league after making physical contact with an official. He talked about the incident, what he was expecting to come of it and what he learned from it.

After Sunday's 30-7 win, Harrison Smith had all the looks of a school kid who got sent to the principal's office and then had to apologize to the class. In the locker room after the game – about a half hour after the game had ended, but more than two hours from the time Smith's game had ended – he faced a throng of media types and had to explain himself.

Following an interception by Antoine Winfield, a pileup of players ensued and Smith got into a shoving match with Tennessee wide receiver Nate Washington. As bodies got in between them, the jawing between the two continued. Back Judge Steve Freeman got in between them and tried directing Smith toward the Vikings sideline. At that point, Smith pushed Freeman aside. In the heat of the moment, he claimed he didn't know that Freeman was an official and sounded truly repentant about his actions.

When referee Jeff Triplette announced to the crowd at the Metrodome that Smith had been flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and ejected from the game, the only question that fans and media types were asking wasn't if Smith would end up being fined or suspended, but how much the fine would be and would Commissioner Roger Goodell bring down the hammer and drop both a fine and a suspension on him.

Instead, Goodell and the NFL fine police decided to let Smith go on "time served" from missing two-and-a-half quarters of last Sunday's game. Smith's heartfelt apology seemed to hit home with league officials and many were stunned that an ejection-worthy penalty didn't result in worse punishment – including Smith.

In the realm of whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, Smith falls into the latter category, which made his lack of an additional fine or suspension even more of a surprise.

"I kind of anticipate the worst in most things because then you can't be disappointed," Smith said. "That's just kind of my mindset."

Many defensive players throw up the bravado that they don't care if they are fined or suspended because football is a violent game and they aren't going to dial it back and give the offensive players any more of an edge than the rules already do. But Smith was sincerely taken aback by his ejection and felt a bit ashamed of leaving his team in the lurch – with only three safeties on the game day roster Sunday when Smith got ejected, the Vikings were down to just Jamarca Sanford and rookie Robert Blanton for the rest of the game.

It was that exclusion from Sunday's game that made the biggest impact on Smith and gave him a better appreciation for being able to play the game when that opportunity was taken away from him.

"It definitely makes you realize how much you love the game and how much you want to take advantage of every opportunity you get to get on the field," Smith said. "It kind of puts it in perspective just how lucky I am to be a part of the Vikings and play in the NFL. It makes you realize how great it really is."

Smith had some nervous moments while he was waiting and wondering how the situation would play out, but he was prepared for anything the league was going to hand out, because, from the moment he was told he had to leave the field, he knew the punishment phase of the incident was no longer in his control.

"It was out of my hands at that point," Smith said. "Whatever the league has to do is what the league has to do. I'm going to try to play by the rules, so I just kind of waited and saw what happened. Once (the incident) happened, it was out of my hands."

Smith hasn't had any conversations with the league office about the incident and hopes that it can be put behind him as a lesson learned. He knows shoving aside an official has put on him on the league's punitive radar and hopes that it doesn't sully his reputation around the league as being a hothead or a problem child. He's glad it's all over and that he will rejoin his teammates when they look to go 5-1 this weekend at Washington.

"I'm just happy to get back on the field," Smith said. "That's the focus – just going out there and playing with the Vikings and trying to help the Vikings win."


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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When referee Jeff Triplette announced to the crowd at the Metrodome that Smith had been flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and ejected from the game, the only question that fans and media types were asking wasn't if Smith would end up being fined or suspended, but how much the fine would be and would Commissioner Roger Goodell bring down the hammer and drop both a fine and a suspension on him. Instead, Goodell and the NFL fine police decided to let Smith go on \"time served\" from missing two-and-a-half quarters of last Sunday's game. Smith's heartfelt apology seemed to hit home with league officials and many were stunned that an ejection-worthy penalty didn't result in worse punishment – including Smith. In the realm of whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, Smith falls into the latter category, which made his lack of an additional fine or suspension even more of a surprise. \"I kind of anticipate the worst in most things because then you can't be disappointed,\" Smith said. \"That's just kind of my mindset.\" Many defensive players throw up the bravado that they don't care if they are fined or suspended because football is a violent game and they aren't going to dial it back and give the offensive players any more of an edge than the rules already do. But Smith was sincerely taken aback by his ejection and felt a bit ashamed of leaving his team in the lurch – with only three safeties on the game day roster Sunday when Smith got ejected, the Vikings were down to just Jamarca Sanford and rookie Robert Blanton for the rest of the game. 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