Houston Texans defensive end Antonio Smith, in the midst of a three-game suspension handed down by the NFL, said he has forgiven Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, who he has said instigated the confrontation that caused the suspension, and is even considering thanking him when the season is over.
Smith was suspended because the league said he ripped the helmet off of Incognito during the Texans' second preseason game and tried to hit him with it.
"I'm just dealing with this the best way I can as a man," Smith said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports and the Houston Chronicle.
"Nobody ever wants to go through this, or not be able to be there to help their brothers win the next game. All I can do is take what's given to me and make the best of it. My opinion doesn't matter. It isn't going to matter to the powers that be, but no I don't think it was fair. Not a three-game suspension."
Smith said he has forgiven himself and Incognito.
"Days after that situation I just let it go," Smith said. "I forgave him. I forgave myself. The thing that hurt me the worst is letting down my brothers. That's how I've always been. I've always been the type of person that fights for the things that he loves and that's why I'm so passionate."
The fact that Smith will not be there for the Texans when they play the Chargers in San Diego next Monday night bothers him the most.
"At the end of the day, after all of my hurt and pain, ranting and raving (and) Why me? Why me? Why me?, at the end of the day, the thing that was most important is I'm looking in the meeting room and all of my brothers and they're looking at me," Smith said. 'Like man I can't believe you're going to be gone. We're going to miss you.' That's all you heard every day.
"That became like torture after a few days. Your teammates they're showing you their support, but at the same time they're showing you their support, they remind you of what you're going to be missing because they value you so much, because they respect you so much, because they love you so much.
"That thing humbled me more than anything. Whether they see it that way or not, or I see it that way or not, I'm letting down my team at the end of the day."
Smith, who has had issues in the past with Incognito, said he has become a better man and player because of what he has been through.
"Nobody defines me but my Lord and Savior," Smith said. "When this happened it sent me back to a place where I had to look only to Him and stop looking to myself and my own selfish thoughts and of injustice and different things like that. The only thing I could do was to turn to Him and that's what I do. Anytime I face anything like this and any type of trouble that's what I do.
"I came to terms with the whole situation, even the ankle situation last year and the numerous amounts of things that me and him have been into over the years.
"The things that I'm focused on now will shock the world. It's given me like a reemergence. I'll probably thank him at the end of this season. I have a drive that I probably haven't felt in like years, a reawakening that I haven't felt in years."
Smith said he can already see the difference in himself after going through the issues with his suspension.
"As you can see I look better than I've ever looked," Smith said. "I let myself get away there for a minute.
"That motivation, that pop, that oomph, that football after years and years can kind of take away when you go through the same routine over and over again."
And Smith is expecting great things for the Houston Texans in 2013.
"I think this year for our team is one of the most important years this franchise has had," Smith said. Every piece that we need, we have. I think the mindset that we need to get over that second wind playoff hump, we got it.
"It's not just in the veterans, I sense it in the rookies. Some of these rookies got the attitude of winning right off the bat. They don't want less than winning, and to see the weapons that we have now, I think that anybody on my team would say that less than a Super Bowl this year would be a failure.
"For me to give less than my all for my team, a better me and the best me that I can give them to achieve that would be a failure to me."
Smith is heading into the final year of his contract.
He said he wants to finish his career with the Texans and that situation is the least of his worries.
"My heart is here," Smith said. "This is where I want to play. I said it to you. I've said it to (Texans executive vice president/general manager) Rick (Smith). This is where I want to end my career."
The suspension cost Smith one game check, more than $350,000.
He said he would gladly pay twice that to help the Texans win the Super Bowl.
"I'm saying to win the Super Bowl, I'd give away another $300,000," Smith said.
And the Texans defensive end offered a message to the team's fans.
"Fans just watch, just watch," Smith said. "This is going to be a special season for us and I think that this is team is fixing to make a transition that's going to turn this franchise into one of those teams mentioned when you talk about great teams, great offenses, defenses. You don't get that validation until you win a Super Bowl. I'm going to dream and I'm going to hope."
Unfortunately for Smith he will be not be able to help the Texans during their first game.
He'll have to watch the game on television.
"I've been worried about that," Smith said. "I've been wondering how is it going to feel to watch on the TV a game that I'm supposed to be (there). That's something that I never imagined having to do."
Smith said he will leave Houston for a few days this week so that he can focus on getting better.
"I've been working out here," Smith said. "I've got a trainer in Oklahoma that I'm going to work out with. I'm going to get away for a little bit."
Smith made an appearance on Sunday at a show hosted by Sports Collectibles of Houston at the Humble Civic Center in Humble.