Tampa Bay Buccaneers new safeties coach Mikal Smith doesn’t mind the fact that Dashon Goldson has a reputation as one of the league’s most notorious players.
The oldest son of head coach Lovie Smith, who got his first NFL gig working for his father in Chicago, has never been one to shy away from an extra project or two, especially if it means helping dad out.
In Tampa, one of his top priorities will be harnessing Goldson’s aggression and curtailing costly penalties so that the All-Pro can stay out on the field and be a force in Smith’s Tampa-2 defense.
Goldson was fined three times last year for a total of $190,000, more than any other player in the NFL, including Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. He was flagged a total of seven times for 104 yards in penalties.
“No. 1 is, he’s not a dirty player,” Smith said in an interview with Sports Talk Florida this week. “Sometimes you get those fines and the hits, and okay, ‘Is this guy a dirty player?’ No. Watching tape and talking to the guy, he’s not a dirty player. He’s just an anxious guy.”
There was the $30,000 fine for striking Jets tight end Jeff Cumberland in the head and neck area in Week 1. Then came the $100,000-hit on running back Darren Sproles that earned him a one game suspension.
Goldson, who is 6-foot-2, successfully contested that Sproles, who is 5-foot-6, shifted his body at the last second, causing him to misfire. The suspension was overturned.
Goldson wasn’t so lucky following a helmet-to-helmet hit on Falcons wide receiver Roddy White. He was forced to miss a game against the Lions, costing him a $264,705 game check.
There would be a $60,000 fine after that for a hit on Rams wide receiver Stedman Bailey.
“At times, the game is a fast game, and sometimes you’re going to end up making contact in areas that we’d rather not have you make contact, [and it’s] going to draw penalties and draw fouls,” Smith explained.
“But with him, we’re just going to see where [his] aiming point is, keeping [his] head up, looking at where [he’s] actually aiming to make contact with – I think little things like that will help him out.”
Regardless of Goldson’s track record as one of the league’s most flagrant rule violators, Smith appreciates the physicality and other intangibles he brings to the position, and looks forward to helping him elevate his game.
“One thing you can’t teach a football player is toughness. And he doesn’t turn down contact. He wants to initiate, bring it to the opponent. And you can’t teach that. Some guys have it, some guys don’t. You can try to bring it to their attention more but he obviously has that.”
With changing safety rules designed to eliminate helmet-to-helmet hits and prevent concussions, it’s more about correcting angles and mechanics with Goldson rather than softening his playing style or his attitude.
In fact, Smith hopes his mental approach to the game doesn’t change at all.
“The main thing is, he’s not a dirty player taking these shots and trying to hurt somebody. He’s just trying to be aggressive to the ball which is why he’s an exciting player to begin with.”