Antonio Smith has started all but two games for the Texans since 2009. (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)
The Houston Texans will be without Antonio Smith for the final two weeks of the preseason and their regular-season opener against San Diego, the NFL announced Wednesday. The NFL handed down that punishment over 24 hours after "FOX Football Daily" aired video of Smith ripping off the helmet of Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito and then hitting Incognito with it in the shoulder.
The incident occurred during Houston's preseason matchup with Miami on Saturday, a game that also featured D.J. Swearinger's brutal hit on Dustin Keller that resulted in Keller suffering season-ending knee injuries.
Smith's play could have had even more devastating effects, had he connected with Incognito's head. This was the second time in two years that Smith and Incognito have clashed -- Smith was fined $11,000 last season for kicking Incognito after the two scrapped during a fumble pile-up.
This latest penalty will cost Smith much more. In addition to sitting out for the Texans' next three contests, Smith also will lose his Week 1 paycheck, which amounts to slightly less than $400,000.
Houston will turn to either Tim Jamison or 2012 draft pick Jared Crick to fill Smith's spot at defensive end in the team's 3-4 defense. That swap may not be too drastic a hit to the Texans' chances against San Diego (and its rebuilding offensive line), though Smith was a Pro Bowler in 2011 and graded out as the league's No. 4 defensive end last season on Pro Football Focus. The Texans do still have the luxury of J.J. Watt at their other DE spot, with several pass-rushing linebackers behind him.