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Jets safety Eric Smith was suspended for one game in 2008 for launching himself into Anquan Boldin, then with the Cardinals, in the end zone. So Smith should be clear on what’s a violation and what’s acceptable.

He isn’t.

“What we understand is leading with the crown of the head, which we’ve always known” is illegal, he said. “We have no idea what’s a defenseless receiver or player.

“Sometimes on a helmet-to-helmet hit, they’ve got to understand that your shoulders are next to your head and it’s hard to keep the helmet out of it when someone moves as you are making the hit. And you’re going so fast and usually at an angle.”

That’s another issue for players: the speed of the game versus the speed at which the tackles are being reviewed by Anderson, his assistant Merton Hanks, and director of officiating Carl Johnson.

“It’s not as easy for us to play the game. We don’t play the game with a remote in our hand, to be able to rewind and slow down,” said Broncos veteran safety Brian Dawkins, one of the hardest hitters in football. “The game has never been played like that. It will never be played like that. There will always be huge collisions, there will always be things that are going to happen split-second. It’s just one of those things, a part of the game. It’s a physical, in-your-face sport.”

The league isn’t interested in taking away the physical aspects of the game. Anderson believes that, generally, the players have adhered to the rules and emphasizes there haven’t been any fouls worthy of handing out a suspension.

He warns, though, that the threat of suspension is not lip service, and that players already fined for various violations are treading dangerous ground if they break more rules.

“We hope that time to does not come, but repeat offenders are at higher risk than other folks,” he said.

Some players even believe certain peers are being watched far more closely than others, with Steelers star linebacker James Harrison mentioned most often. Harrison has been fined $125,00 for hits on the Browns’ Mohamed Massaquoi, Titans quarterback Vince Young, Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Harrison briefly thought about retiring in October after he was nailed for $75,000 for hits in the Cleveland game.

“Defensive players do feel targeted in this situation,” Clark said. “We feel the NFL is going to protect quarterbacks. They’re going to protect all of them _ except ours. You see the way (Ben Roethlisberger is) bent up after plays. James (Harrison) makes football plays, before-the-whistle plays, and they’re being called.

“It’s getting tough on James, I don’t know what to tell him.”

Anderson would tell him much the same thing Commissioner Roger Goodell has told Harrison when they met following the heaviest of Harrison’s fines.

“We understand the utmost importance of player safety and particularly to prevent head trauma and neck trauma,” Anderson said. “We have dedicated ourselves to do that and will not relent in protecting against those illegal hits.”

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