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Updated: September 3rd, 2012 12:51pm
Vikings' Harrison Smith will appeal fine, 'try to aim low' in future

Vikings' Harrison Smith will appeal fine, 'try to aim low' in future

by Tom Pelissero
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Harrison Smith will appeal his hefty fine for an illegal preseason hit, but the Minnesota Vikings' rookie safety isn't holding his breath about getting it overturned.

An NFL spokesman on Friday confirmed Smith was fined $21,000 for the Aug. 24 hit on San Diego receiver Mike Willie because he "unnecessarily struck a defenseless player in the head and neck area with his shoulder."

Smith also was assessed a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness on the play, keeping the Chargers' winning drive alive.

"Maybe I could have hit him lower," Smith said. "At the end of the day, stuff happens in football. I wasn't trying to hit him in his head. I tried to pull up at the end. But stuff happens. Got to pay for the consequences, I guess.

"In the future -- there's not a whole lot I really can change with that hit -- but I'll try to aim low. I don't know if that's safer or not for the offensive guy, but it is what it is."

That echoed a sentiment expressed by many defensive players as the league has emphasized eliminating those sorts of hits in recent years.

Aim high, get flagged and fined for a blow to the head. Aim low, perhaps take out someone's knee. At NFL speed, the level of the target can change quickly, too, but the onus is still on the defensive player to avoid going to the head and neck area.

"When the offensive guy's going for the ball, they're crouched down," Smith said. "So, there's pretty much no surface area. You either hit him in the head or the knee. I'll just try to do what I can do."

His next chance comes in Sunday's opener against Jacksonville. A first-round draft pick (29th overall) out of Notre Dame in April, Smith is expected to start.

"I'm excited," Smith said. "I feel like I'm just trying to get better every day, and that's just kind of all I can do. Not take huge leaps or anything like that, try to play out of my mind or anything. Just go out there and do my job every week."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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In this story: Leslie Frazier, Harrison Smith