Houston Texans defensive end Antonio Smith was suspended by the NFL on Wednesday for the season opener and the last two preseason games for hitting Miami guard Richie Incognito with the Dolphins player's helmet.
Smith ripped the helmet off Incognito's head, then hit Incognito on the shoulder with it in last Saturday night's preseason game. The two also went at it in last season's opener, when Smith kicked Incognito, drawing an $11,000 fine. Smith later said Incognito deliberately tried to twist his ankle while holding his legs in the 2012 game.
Incognito was not fined for that play.
Smith must sit out Houston's visit to San Diego to begin the season Sept. 9. He also will lose about $400,000 in salary for his seventh rules violation since 2011.
He was fined three times for unnecessary roughness and three times for illegal hits before the latest incident.
Smith may attend team meetings before the next two preseason games, but will not participate in practice or play Sunday against New Orleans or Aug. 29 against Dallas. Beginning Aug. 31, Smith is suspended for Week 1 of the regular season and may not take part in any team activities.
Incognito says respect for his teammates kept him calm after Smith swung the helmet.
"Football is an intense game," Incognito said. "It's played with a lot of passion. Blood runs hot. I've been there. I'm no choirboy. People lost their cool and I just thank God nobody got hurt."
Smith ripped Incognito's helmet off after a Miami pass play in the first half of Houston's 24-17 victory at Reliant Stadium and swung it at Incognito. Television replays don't clearly indicate whether the helmet made contact with Incognito's face, and he declined to provide the answer.
No penalty was called on the play.
"You're faced with those situations all the time. It's been a work in progress for me," Incognito said. "It's something I've been working on for many years now. I have too much respect for my teammates and too much respect for the hard work that we put in to retaliate and affect this team negatively."