Ross Tucker
Wednesday October 1st, 2008

Eric Smith became the NFL equivalent of a sacrificial lamb when he was fined $50,000 and suspended for one game in the wake of his helmet-to-helmet hit on Anquan Boldin on Sunday. Commissioner Roger Goodell had recently sent out a memo to all players in which he emphasized player safety. So for Smith, the timing of his hit could not have been worse.

Look, I'm all for protecting the health of players, but this fine was more than a little steep. Smith is making $445,000 this year, so figure that after all his New Jersey taxes are deducted, he would have taken home about $250,000. Not anymore. With one hit Smith lost one-fifth of his income. A one-game suspension would have been enough to scare the guys around the league.

Furthermore, I'm aware the hit looks bad in slow-motion, but that's just it, the game is not played in slow-motion, it's played at warp speed. Only players and former players realize how fast things happen between the white lines. Smith went to make a play, to do his job, and the angle of the play changed a split second before impact when Kerry Rhodes hit Boldin from behind.

That is my major problem with the ruling; I don't think the league adequately took into account that dynamic. I know the main concern was that Smith launched his body, but what else is he supposed to do to make sure he times it perfectly and is not a hair late or a tad early.

Besides, I could make a very strong argument the hit would have been even more devastating if Smith hadn't left his feet. It is the same reason why coaches often dislike running backs trying to dive over the pile into the end zone for touchdowns. You lose your power when you leave your feet.

Smith was in the right place to make the play. Unfortunately, he will pay a hefty price because of it.

I'm quite sure Scott Linehan is disappointed he was fired by the St. Louis Rams on Monday. No one, after all, wants to suffer that type of public indignity or have their tenure considered a failure. But should he really be that upset?

Instead of strolling the halls in St. Louis as a dead man walking for the remainder of the season, which still has 13 long weeks to go, by the way, Linehan will get paid to do nothing. That's right, a coach's contract, unlike those of the rank and file players, are guaranteed in the National Football League, which means Linehan will see every remaining penny of the four-year, $8 million contract he signed in 2006.

Hmmm, let me think about that one. Work crazy long hours in a miserable work environment for a downtrodden franchise that is on the market ... or sleep in every day, eat Rocky Road ice cream while watching movies and get paid exactly the same for either pursuit. Not bad work if you can get it.

I'll take door number two and quickly thank Chip Rosenbloom for putting me out of my misery. If I were Linehan, I might even sit out next year and enjoy a full year off from the grind while pocketing another two mil.

I sure wish I had had that type of golden parachute the four times I was let go by an NFL team. I got cut one year into my three-year contract extension with the Buffalo Bills after back surgery and never got another dime, so excuse me if I am not feeling real bad for Linehan.

Hopefully, the Arizona Cardinals horrific start against the New York Jets on Sunday will end all of the dialogue surrounding the most effective way for NFL teams to make cross-country trips. The Cards elected to stay on the east coast for the week after their loss to the Washington Redskins, hoping to get off to a quick start against the Jets by avoiding the long miles and jet lag they would have endured. The hope was that they would get used to the Eastern Time Zone and not feel like the game was starting at 10 a.m. on their respective body clocks.

Good call there. Kurt Warner and the boys were down 35-0 at intermission. So evidently the experiment failed. Or did it?

All of this travel planning is overrated. I have been on east coast teams that flew out west on Friday, a day early, and got thrashed. I have been on east coast teams that didn't get out to the left coast until late on Saturday, yet dominated the game the next day.

There is no rhyme or reason and this won't become a hot topic again until later in the year when the New England Patriots stay out west for a week, not once, but twice, in an effort to make sure they are ready to play back-to-back games in the Pacific Time Zone. I am sure the Pats are hoping they fare better than the Cards did on Sunday, otherwise it will officially be back to the drawing board across the NFL.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.