METAIRIE — Saints safety Roman Harper sat in front of his locker wearing a big grin when asked for his reaction to a $15,000 fine the NFL levied on him for his late hit on Carolina receiver Steve Smith.
“My reaction to it is the smile on my face,” Harper said.
Harper shoved Smith to the ground as the receiver slowly crossed the goal line during the first half of the Saints’ 30-27 victory over the Panthers on Sunday. A brief scrum between the NFC South Division rivals ensued.
When asked if the fine was worth it, Harper responded, “Oh yes it was. I think the point was taken and everybody that needed to get the point got it.
“I think the NFL got the point. I got the point. Everybody that was involved got the point,” Harper continued. “So I think it was good for this team. I think it was good for everything.”
Harper had said after the game that he “just lost it” when he saw Smith slowing down in apparent celebration before crossing the goal line.
Smith said Harper misread the situation.
“He felt that I was slowing down and trying to disrespect somebody and that wasn’t my intention,” Smith said. “With physics, when you accelerate at some point you have to slow down. So I wasn’t slowing down to hot dog in front of someone, because at the end of the pylons, you have to stop or there’s a large blue pad ... that you will run into. So I was slowing down, not to disrespect anybody, but to decelerate.”
Smith added that when he looked back as he slowed down, he wasn’t doing so mockingly as Harper suspected, but was in fact checking to see if Saints cornerback Jabari Greer was still in pursuit.
“I was looking at Greer. I played against him a number of times and whether he makes a good play or a bad play, he’s going to hustle,” Smith said. “He’s going to try to run down there and try to strip the ball and not allow you to get in. So I was looking at him.”
When advised of Smith’s explanation, Harper appeared unmoved.
“That’s a good story. That sounds very legit. You tell him I like it,” Harper said. “It seemed like he studied. He learned the names. He filled in all the right blanks. I can’t complain with that.”
Harper has said he will not offer an apology and Smith said he never expected one, but the two are scheduled to see each other again when Carolina visits the Superdome on Jan. 1.
“You best believe I’m not looking for an apology,” Smith said. “I didn’t lose any sleep over it and won’t lose any sleep over it. When we play them down there I’m not going to walk up to him and say, ‘Can I have an apology? Can we make amends?’ It’s football.
“But if going up and catching a ball and scoring is disrespectful, I have no control over it,” Smith continued. “The object of the game, when Cam (Newton) threw the ball was to catch it and do the best I can with it. And that’s what I did. If he wasn’t a fan of it, I understand. Some people like blue cheese. I like ranch. He’s obviously more of a blue cheese guy.”