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Is It Fair To Call The Texans ‘Dirty’

By JULIE TAKAHASHI, SportsRadio 610
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Houston (CBS Houston) – After Saturday’s game against the Dolphins, is it fair to call the Texans’ dirty?

One of the ‘offenses’ that is helping formulate these ‘dirty’ opinions are one, Texans defensive end Antonio Smith receiving a regular season game suspension in addition to the next two preseason games for yanking Richie Incognito helmet off and swing it at the head of Dolphins guard.

Former NFL offensive lineman, Kyle Turley was on with J&R Tuesday afternoon and said Smith was, “getting owned and manhandled by Richie Incognito, a good player.”  Turley went on to say that this is what happens, “It’s just trench warfare, man.  I don’t understand the crying and bitching that goes along with the defensive side of the ball when it comes to them getting shut down.”

If you know the history of Richie Incognito and Antonio Smith, you know that the bad blood has been going on well before Saturday. Smith was originally fined $21,000 for kicking Incognito in the opening week of the 2012 regular season.  The fine was reduced to $11,000 after an appeal by Smith.

“A dirty player being let to play dirty . . . Richie Incognito,” Smith said, last year after he claimed his kick was in retaliation for an ankle twist by Incognito. “Everything that’s illegal that can be done on the football field he does it, but mainly he was hitting people after the play, sliding down on your leg grabbing your ankle and trying to twist to break your ankle and he was doing it right in front of the referees and he was still in the game.”

So, can you call someone dirty for retaliation? Or is the severity of swinging a helmet, an offense worth of an automatic suspension? Are your past actions taking into consideration?

If you watch before the second quarter incident of Saturday’s preseason game, you can see a few instances where Incognito appears to get chippy, appears to grab face masks and that’s only what you can see on film. But the question is, does that warrant taking off the helmet of another player on the field and dangerously swinging it at the helmet-less player.

Does that warrant the dirty label?

The second ‘offense’ comes from the same Saturday night game, where rookie safety D.J. Swearinger went low on Dolphin Dustin Keller and blew out three of the tight end’s knee ligaments.  “I would never go to hit somebody to injure them at all,” Swearinger said after the game. “I told him good luck after the hit but i was playing within the rules.  I wish him all the luck, i wish him a speedy recovery.”

Swearinger said, “I was making a hit playing football. In this league, you’ve got to go low. If you go high, you’re going to get a fine.”  Swearinger has a history with helmet-to-helmet hits from his days at South Carolina. He was suspended for a game last year for one.

Should the NFL look into modifying the rule? Or do players have to adapt to this style of play? Which hit is ‘worse’ and do massive fines play a part?

“It’s just unfortunate, ” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said at his press conference on Sunday. “Any time a player gets hurt is very unfortunate, so you feel bad for the player, whether that guy is on your team or you’re the guy playing against him. You just don’t want to see those things happen. All the targets are from the shoulders down in football now and D.J. was playing an out-route and reacted to an in-route and just reacting and making a tackle and unfortunately got caught in a horrible situation. You just feel very bad for the young man. You don’t want to see that happen at all.”

So Swearinger, admits that he intentionally went low to avoid a fine, does that make him dirty?

Keller’s teammate, wide receiver Brian Hartline criticized Texans rookie safety D.J. Swearinger for the hit.  Tuesday, Hartline responded to Swearinger’s response on WQAM radio, “It’s crap, I think that, me personally, if you’re sitting there telling me ‘I’m worried about going high and for the head’ (and) you consciously went low, then (that) is what you’re trying to tell me.”

Hartline continued, “I’m not a defensive player. So I don’t sit here and assume right off the bat. But what I do know is that I have a lot of good pros on my team, and from what they have said to me is that there is no place for that in our game today.”

Keller was officially put on season-ending injured reserve by the Dolphins on Tuesday.

The ‘dirty’ label is already being thrown out about the Texans.  You’ll get both sides, one saying it’s warranted another saying it’s smash-mouth football.  And then there’s the side, that understands football is a violent sport, not a swinging a helmet violent sport, but a sport where if you make one wrong move it could be catastrophic.

The NFL has to be more in tune to player’s reputations on the field and keep a closer on  players like Incognito and now, unfortunately, Smith so these unnecessary retaliations don’t happen.

As for Swearinger, all you can do is take his word that he wasn’t aiming to injure Keller.  Kubiak said it best, “It’s a horrible situation.”

But I would tell Texans fan to ease up on Dolphin fan a bit, if Andre Johnson or DeAndre Hopkins got hit in the knee during Saturday’s game and was now out for the whole 2013-2014 season, you might say it’s ‘crap’ too.

Follow Julie Takahashi on Twitter: @Julie_Takahashi

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