Vikings still upset at NFL over Harrison Smith’s ejection

Jordan Akins #88 of the Houston Texans takes a hit to the helmet from Harrison Smith #22 of the Minnesota Vikings after making a catch as Eric Kendricks #54 also makes the tackle during the second quarter at NRG Stadium on October 04, 2020 in Houston ((Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images))

Minnesota Vikings co-defensive coordinators Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer don’t know what to tell Harrison Smith after his ejection last Sunday.

Smith was thrown out of the game at Houston, late in the second quarter, after a hit on tight end Jordan Akins that was deemed flagrant. The NFL’s league office made the decision to eject Smith from the game, not the officials on the field. He was initially flagged for the hit, the equivalent of targeting in the NFL.

Smith appears to try to drive his shoulder into Akins to make the initial hit, but Akins lowers his helmet to brace for the impact. Akins left the game after the hit and did not return after being placed in the concussion protocol.

“I just think that’s such a bang-bang play. Harrison has got to react to what he sees. He is not trying to be dirty, he is not a dirty player. He was just trying to make a play on the football, and truth be told when I look at the replay, it looked like he got his shoulder in there below his head,” Zimmer said. “It’s just an unfortunate circumstance that happened in the game. The officials have to make calls bang-bang, on the spot, that’s a tough one that went against us, but I trust Harrison to make the right play whenever he’s out there.”

The one thing Patterson doesn’t want Smith to do is change the way he plays because of what happened. Smith has always been a physical, hard hitter at safety, but doesn’t have the reputation of playing dirty.

“I don’t know what you tell him to do, let the guy catch the ball? I really don’t know what you tell a guy to do, unless you tell him just let the guy catch the ball and then tag him. That’s all he can do. He was trying to tackle a guy low, he wasn’t going for his head, and the receiver ducked his head to brace for contact. So what do you tell a guy to do? You tell a guy to be aggressive and not to play the game full speed? He’s stuck between a rock and a hard place there,” Patterson said.

Patterson added, “You can’t take their desire to be aggressive away from them. He did what he’s been taught to do, lower your target. Hit him in the waist area, that’s what he was trying to do. But he can’t control what the receiver does, that’s the problem. If the receiver didn’t duck, we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now.”

With Smith out for the second half, Deshaun Watson completed a pair of touchdowns to Will Fuller and Kenny Stills that probably don’t happen if Smith is in the game. George Iloka replaced Smith, and having only been in Minnesota a few weeks, is still learning the defensive system, positioning and communication with other players in the secondary.

While it’s unlikely Smith will be suspended for Sunday’s game at Seattle, he could face a fine for the hit and ejection.