Safety Harrison Smith’s ejection for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Texans tight end Jordan Akins still grates on the Vikings coaching staff four days after it happened in the first half of Sunday’s win at NRG Stadium.
Asked today if they were able to use what happened to one of the league’s more decorated veteran safeties as a teaching tool for their young defensive backs, co-coordinators Adam Zimmer and Andre Patterson said no because there was nothing else Smith could have done in that situation.
“I don’t know what you tell them to do – let the guy catch the ball?” Patterson said. “I mean, I really don’t know what you tell a guy to do. Unless you tell him, ‘Just let the guy catch the ball and then tag him.’ I mean, that’s all he can do. He was trying to tackle the guy low, he wasn’t going for his head, and the receiver braced his head to brace for contact. What do you tell a guy to do? That’s the hard part. Do you tell a guy not to be aggressive and not to play the game full-speed? He’s stuck between a rock and a hard place there.”
Zimmer added: “Well, I just think that’s such a bang-bang play that Harrison’s got to react to what he sees. He is not trying to be dirty. He is not a dirty player. He was just trying to make a play on the football, and truth be told, when I look at the replay, I think he got his shoulder in there below his head. I don’t think you use that as a teaching tool; I think it’s just an unfortunate circumstance that happened in the game. The officials have to make calls bang-bang, on the spot, and that’s a tough one that went against us, but I trust Harrison to make the right play whenever he’s out there.”
Zimmer said sometimes a team just has to live with the consequences of how the game is officiated today.
“As coaches, you line up and play the next play,” he said. “And we ended up holding them to a field goal in the red zone there. You’re going to get calls bad against you, or questionable, against you all the time, but you’ve just to move on to the next play and hope you can stop them – which we did on that drive, and that was the big three-play series we had down in the red zone.”
The last thing Patterson said he wants to do is take away a player’s desire to be aggressive.
“[Smith] did what he's been taught to do,” Patterson said. “Lower your target. Hit him down at the waist area … that's what he was trying to do. But he can't control what the receiver does. That's the problem. He can't control what the receiver does. If the receiver didn't duck, we wouldn't be having this discussion."