By Joseph Gunther
Harrison Smith is developing a reputation as a heavy hitter in the Minnesota Vikings secondary.
A seemingly harmless hit on Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller could bring another fine to the second-year safety’s locker.
Miller caught a pass over the middle on a third down play that gained 28 yards. As Smith was going in for the hit, with the targeting clearly being the chest, Miller lowered his head. The result was a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty for helmet-to-helmet contact on Smith.
“That’s what I thought,” Smith said referring to Miller dropping his head. “They told us even if they lowered their, if you make contact with the helmet, that’s a fine. But that’s pretty unreasonable in my opinion.”
He was fined twice as a rookie totaling $36,750 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Mike Willie of the San Diego Chargers during the preseason and a horse-collar tackle on Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins in Week 6.
“I don’t really want to say too much because I don’t know where that will get me,” Smith said. “Heath Miller had a knee injury last year, right? And as a player, as a fan, I know that. I don’t want to hit him in the knee. I want to hit him in a good area. I try to keep my head out of it. I didn’t launch, and I don’t really know what else to do.”
Miller was in his second game after having reconstruction surgery on his knee nine months ago.
Smith has 30 tackles, three passes defensed and two interceptions this season.
Walsh sets team mark
Blair Walsh, in just his second season in the NFL, broke the Vikings record for career 50-plus-yard field goals in Sunday’s win over the Steelers. The key to his success is by not over kicking on those long kicks.
“I got to remember most of my balls travel 50-plus yards not matter what,” Walsh said. “I think any kicker would tell you that. If you go out there and try and hit it 54 yards, you’re not necessarily going to make it. You have to act like it’s something a little bit shorter and just be smooth and be routine.”
A missed 44-yard field goal with just under seven minutes remaining in the game put a damper on things for the 23-year-old kicker.
“I just pulled it a little bit,” Walsh said. “I was worried about pushing it down the right hash and instead overcompensated. It’s something I have to work on.”
Walsh set the NFL single-season record for 50-plus-yard field goals last season with 10. He has made two more this season and has yet to miss during his career.
The Vikings were without two injured starters in their lineup for Sunday’s game.
Chris Cook (groin) and Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) were ruled out after missing almost all of the week’s practice. Cook sat out all three days and Sanford missed Wednesday’s and Friday’s practices and was limited on Thursday.
Marcus Sherels started in Cook’s spot and finished the game with no defensive statistics.
Andrew Sendejo started for Sanford and finished with four tackles. He rotated in and out of the lineup with Mistral Raymond, who was active for the first time this season. Raymond finished the game with four tackles as well.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.