NFL suspends Texans DE Smith for opener

HOUSTON — Houston Texans defensive end Antonio Smith lost his cool in a preseason game, and it’s going to keep him out of the team’s season opener.

Smith was suspended by the NFL on Wednesday for Week 1 of the regular season and the last two preseason games for hitting Miami guard Richie Incognito with the Dolphins player’s helmet.

Smith ripped the helmet off Incognito’s head, then hit Incognito on the shoulder with it Saturday night’ in the teams’ preseason game. The two also went at it in last season’s opener, when Smith kicked Incognito, drawing an $11,000 fine. Smith later said Incognito deliberately tried to twist his ankle while holding his legs in the 2012 game.

Incognito was not fined for that play.

Houston general manager Rick Smith was unhappy with Antonio Smith’s actions.

“That’s obviously something we can’t have in our game,” Rick Smith said.

Smith must sit out Houston’s visit to San Diego to begin the season Sept. 9. He also will lose about $400,000 in salary for his seventh rules violation since 2011.

“I’m disappointed in myself because I’ve got to make sure that my players keep their composure on the football field. That’s my job,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. “They’ve got a job when they get out there to maintain their composure regardless of circumstances. There’s no excuses. We can’t hurt the team, and I talk to our guys about that all the time. If someone is going to miss some time, that hurts the team.”

The Texans said league rules forbid Smith from speaking with the media while he is suspended, but Rick Smith said the player will appeal the punishment.

“There’s an appeal process that has to take place and we’ll support Antonio in that effort and participate in that as well,” Rick Smith said. “I certainly believe that they will consider and they’ll listen. They’ll give us a fair opportunity to present our side of it, and I think we’ve got a legit case to present, and hopefully they hear us.”

Antonio Smith was fined three times for unnecessary roughness and three times for illegal hits before the latest incident.

Smith may attend team meetings before the next two preseason games, but will not participate in practice or play Sunday against New Orleans or Aug. 29 against Dallas. Beginning Aug. 31, Smith is suspended for Week 1 of the regular season and may not take part in any team activities.

Incognito says respect for his teammates kept him calm after Smith swung the helmet.

“Football is an intense game,” Incognito said. “It’s played with a lot of passion. Blood runs hot. I’ve been there. I’m no choirboy. People lost their cool and I just thank God nobody got hurt.”

Smith ripped Incognito’s helmet off after a Miami pass play in the first half of Houston’s 24-17 victory at Reliant Stadium and swung it at Incognito. Television replays don’t clearly indicate whether the helmet made contact with Incognito’s face, and he declined to provide the answer.

No penalty was called on the play.

“You’re faced with those situations all the time. It’s been a work in progress for me,” Incognito said. “It’s something I’ve been working on for many years now. I have too much respect for my teammates and too much respect for the hard work that we put in to retaliate and affect this team negatively.”

Houston defensive end J.J. Watt said the team will miss Antonio Smith if the Texans have to play without him. He was asked if he thought Incognito was a dirty player, but didn’t directly answer the question.

“I think a lot of people think that,” Watt said.

Kubiak said he spoke to Antonio Smith about the situation and the defensive end knows his behavior wasn’t appropriate.

“He was very disappointed,” Kubiak said. “He wants to be out there on the football field and to be there with his team. He understands the consequences that go with losing your composure in a given moment.”

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