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NFL suspends Jets' Smith

New York Jets safety Eric Smith was suspended for one game by the NFL on Monday for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Smith was also fined $50,000 by the league for what it called a flagrant violation of player safety rules.

PHOENIX -- New York Jets safety Eric Smith was suspended for one game by the NFL on Monday for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

Smith was also fined $50,000 by the league for what it called a flagrant violation of player safety rules. In a statement, the NFL said Boldin was in a defenseless position at the time contact was made.

Boldin was resting at home Monday, a day after being carted off the field following the scary collision in the Cardinals' 56-35 loss to the Jets at the Meadowlands.

Cardinals spokesman Mark Dalton said Boldin was fully mobile and was "resting comfortably at home" on Monday evening. The team released no other information on Boldin's condition.

Smith's helmet-to-helmet contact came when Boldin was in a defenseless position at the time contact was made.

The suspension will sideline Smith for the Jets' game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Oct. 12, following the Jets' bye on Oct. 5. The $50,000 fine includes the game check Smith will forfeit for the week of his suspension. Earlier in the day, Smith said he would wait to hear from the league before deciding whether to appeal any suspension or fine.

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."

Whisenhunt said he believed the hit violated the safety edict issued by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, but he stopped short of calling for Smith to be suspended.

"I think it's one of the hits that falls into the category of being dangerous to players," Whisenhunt said Monday. "Certainly, I'm sure that the league is going to look at this and will address it."

Boldin returned to Phoenix on Sunday night after being examined at a New York-area hospital. Whisenhunt said "all the test results were positive," but he wouldn't speculate whether Boldin could play Sunday against Buffalo.

Boldin tried to catch a pass from Kurt Warner but was hit in the back by Kerry Rhodes and then took a shot to 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.

"Everybody was kind of telling me about it when we were in the locker room," said Smith, who was briefly knocked unconscious. "To see something like that and see him have to get carted off the field, you never want to see something like that. You feel awful when something like that happens."

Jets spokesman Bruce Speight said: "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."

Warner called the hit "vicious," but said he didn't believe Smith was trying to injure Boldin.

"I really believe that not many people, if any, in this business actually go after somebody to hurt them," Warner said. "Unfortunately, you see ugly hits like that.

"It was just one of those frightening things that you just hope everybody walks away OK," Warner said. "It's the worst part of our business by far."

In a Sept. 17 letter to players, the league office stressed it would monitor "illegal and dangerous hits" in an effort to protect players in a violent sport.

"Player safety on the field is important to all of us in the NFL," the letter 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," the letter said.

Smith, who said his memory is still "a little fuzzy" and isn't sure if he has a concussion, needed to see a replay to figure out what happened. He insisted there was no malicious intent on his part.

"They just look at the end result, rather than everything that goes into the play," Smith said of those who think it was a dirty hit. "I'm coming to break up a pass and if I don't, it's going to be a touchdown. So, I'm going 100 percent and 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."

After returning from New Jersey late Sunday, the Cardinals reported to team headquarters for weight lifting and film study Monday morning. Many said they hadn't seen replays of the hit.

"It's kind of like a split-second decision," said safety Adrian Wilson, who was flagged for a hit against Baltimore last season. "I don't know if that hit was dirty or not. It was definitely a tough play. A flag didn't come out, so obviously the referees thought it was clean."

Said cornerback Roderick Hood, "Being a defensive back, you're always trying to make a play on the ball. I don't think it was nothing malicious. I think he was just running to the ball and trying to make a play."

Boldin, a two-time Pro Bowler in his sixth NFL season, has long been one of the Cardinals' leaders. He made headlines in training camp when he lashed out at the club for failing to follow through on what he said was a promise for a new contract. Later, Boldin said he wanted to be traded.

Boldin has three years left on the four-year, $22.75 million extension he signed after the 2005 season. He's making an average of $4 million a year.

His contract hasn't been an issue since the season began. He has 27 catches for 366 yards and five touchdowns and has been one of the main weapons for the Cardinals, who have dropped two in a row after opening the season 2-0 for the first time since 1991.

"I think the most important thing for Anquan right now is to get him some rest," Whisenhunt said. "Obviously, his health is the main concern of the team. We'll see how he progresses once we get him in here, once we get him looked at."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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