Atlanta Falcons fullback Keith Smith was on the receiving end of the largest fine of the NFL season after Week 3, $87,418. However, in the end, he was able to elude the fine like his teammate and rookie running back Bijan Robinson, whose 35 tackles avoided are the fifth-most in the NFL this season, by winning his appeal. Smith was initially fined for a block of Detroit Lions running back Zonovan Knight on a kickoff return by Mike Hughes in Week 3 for using his helmet, an occurrence that Smith says was an optical illusion.
"It's just like, a lot of the hits, especially at my position, not only just on kick return, but at fullback, because I've been fined multiple times for use of helmet," Smith said, via ESPN. "Just carrying out routine blocks. But they are just very subjective in that rule, use of helmet, is sometimes impossible because you can't always control how a defender takes you on. So you can only use the technique that you're taught continuously and sometimes that goes against the rule when you slow it down in slow motion."
Smith, 31, wasn't fined for the play during the game, and he says he and his agent won their appeal on the grounds that his technique is common practice across the league. The 10-year NFL veteran said it's difficult to not use his head as part of the blocking process at times because of where and how fast the impact from potential collisions are coming from. Craning his neck into an awkward spot to avoid contact, in Smith's words, could put him at risk to be injured.
"They had some understanding," Smith said, grateful to hold on to what about to 3.7% of his one-year, $2.35 million contract for this season.