NFC North: Harrison Smith ejection

MINNEAPOLIS -- Even without one of their better defensive players Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings limited the Tennessee Titans to a single score in their 30-7 victory. But will they be put in a similar situation next week against the Washington Redskins?

[+] EnlargeHarrison Smith
Jim Mone/AP PhotoVikings safety Harrison Smith is escorted off the field during the first half against the Titans.
That's a question the NFL office could address in the coming days after rookie safety Harrison Smith was ejected for shoving aside back judge Steve Freeman in the second quarter; Freeman was forcefully walking Smith away from a scrum. Smith apologized profusely in the postgame locker room and said he hoped to avoid a suspension.

"The officials already have a hard job," Smith said. "I should never have been there. I just want to play next week."

Smith made two big plays in the first quarter, stopping Titans receiver Kendall Wright short of the sticks on a third-down reception in the first quarter and later recovering a Chris Johnson fumble. He was ejected after Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield intercepted a third-down pass with 11 minutes, 31 seconds left in the second quarter.

A post-play scrum led Freeman to face Smith and push him away. Smith took several steps back before shoving Freeman to his left.

Referee Jeff Triplette told a pool reporter that the move qualified as an "automatic ejection" and added: "He was just trying to separate from the huddle and he can’t be shoving him aside."

Smith didn't disagree.

"It was one of those things where I kind of got caught up in it," he said. "Just stupid for me putting myself in that situation and putting the ref in that situation. Putting the ref in that situation, I apologize for that."

Smith learned the hard way that, reactionary or otherwise, there is never an appropriate time to be physical with an official. Now he'll wait to see how forcefully the NFL wants him to understand that message.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings just suffered an unusual but significant blow early in the second quarter here at the Metrodome.

Rookie safety Harrison Smith, whose early success this season was the subject of a post Friday morning, was ejected for shoving aside an official who was trying to remove him from a scrum. The Vikings, who have two injured safeties on their inactive list -- Mistral Raymond and Andrew Sendejo -- are now playing with rookie Robert Blanton alongside Jamarca Sanford.

I couldn't tell which official Smith was tangled up with on the only replay I saw. I'll pass the name along if and when I can confirm it. I don't think what Smith did was vicious or outrageous, but generally speaking, when an official puts his hands on you, you need to stand down. As for the Vikings' game next week against the Washington Redskins, we'll see if Smith is suspended by the NFL. There are no hard and fast rules there.

Already in this game, Smith has recovered a fumble and made a blistering hit on Tennessee Titans receiver Kendall Wright. The Vikings lead 13-0 near the end of the second quarter, but they'll have to go the rest of the way without one of their top defensive players.