Chiefs DE Smith's wandering hands a sensitive issue

by | CBSSports.com Columnist
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Reputations in sports are a funny thing. Sometimes the worst possible rep can become the best –- like, say, being named the dirtiest player, or the biggest goon or the guy with the most red cards.

You tend, when you get one of these, to get a wider berth on the field. You're also prone to get players who want your rep, in that young gunslinger kind of way.

Shaun Smith might just be a one-trick pony when it comes to dirty play. (US Presswire)  
Shaun Smith might just be a one-trick pony when it comes to dirty play. (US Presswire)  
Then there's Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Shaun Smith, who is developing his own rep -- as a serial package-grabber.

Now explain that to the kids.

For the second week in a row, Smith was accused of nethers-seizing, this time by San Francisco 49ers rookie tackle Anthony Davis, who was caught retaliating. The week before, Cleveland center Alex Mack nearly chased him around the field before being convinced to leave the field for the Browns' punt team.

So far Smith has not responded to the charge that he grabs for other players' sensitives, though we should expect him to hold up a freshly sanitized hand and swear that he has never ever ever put his hand where competitors' hands weren't designed to go.

Still, to be accused of it twice in two weeks by two men who, as near as we can tell, have never met each other and therefore have not had time to compare notes, leads a reasonable person to conclude that where there is smoke, there are palm prints.

Now Conrad Dobler, largely considered the most creatively dirty player in National Football League history, was accused of working the joy divisions of other players when the opportunity presented itself. But it was part of a wider repertoire, with biting, gouging, kneeing, kicking and other more acceptable forms of social intercourse.

There is no anecdotal evidence that Smith has such a well-developed game, cheating-wise. He is known, as of now, for just the one thing, and that's a hell of a rep to live down, let alone to keep up.

Put another way, to quote Davis, "He tried to feel me. That's weird, right?"

Yeah, weird. And apparently effective. The Chiefs won both games, and Davis, who had a tough day in general in the Chiefs' 31-10 win over San Francisco, was forgiven by otherwise critical coach Mike Singletary for his momentary loss of self-control.

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But a question arises from this. If the Chiefs are 2-0 with Smith going grab-bagging, doesn't a rudimentary course of "post hoc ergo propter hoc" (Latin for taking a fallacious assumption and assuming the ensuing result occurred because of the assumption) become Kansas City's new emphasis this week?

In other words, coaches being particularly strident believers in Pavlovian stimulus response, doesn't Todd Haley have to devote at least 15 minutes each practice this week and next to teaching and refining his players' abilities to seize opponents' cash and prizes?

I mean, the Chiefs have the bye this week, and the Colts on Oct. 10. Indianapolis has a veteran offensive line, so the Chiefs would have 10 practice days to get really good at goods-groping between now and then.

And one can only guess how this sort of advancement in training techniques strikes Tony Dungy.

Anyway, it looks like Shaun Smith might have started a firestorm, whether Haley makes it a team-bonding activity or not. Smith is now known as the guy who likes to use the grip-and-grin, and it's going to take more than a stern denial to convince people otherwise.

It's a PR problem. It's a procedural problem. It's going to be a math problem when the statistical experts do a learned study on the correlation between seizing an opponent's dangly bits and yards gained. It's even a technology problem, because the NFL's response to any problem is to mechanize a solution.

And what players want to have to wear pants whose crotches light up when someone has applied too much force where gentility is required? This could turn into a labor problem, too.

But until then, there's Shaun Smith and his magician's hands, and the possibility that his Hall of Fame plaque is going to have some explaining to do.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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