Safety won't back down: Smith plans to play, talk a good game
GREEN BAY -- For the sake of the Green Bay Packers, they should hope safety Anthony Smith has matured -- on the field. But if they expect him to hold his tongue, say, if they face an undefeated team late this season, the Packers shouldn't hold th...
GREEN BAY -- For the sake of the Green Bay Packers, they should hope safety Anthony Smith has matured -- on the field.
But if they expect him to hold his tongue, say, if they face an undefeated team late this season, the Packers shouldn't hold their breath.
That episode in which Smith "guaranteed" a Pittsburgh Steelers victory over the unbeaten New England Patriots in 2007? Yeah, even after the 34-13 drubbing and Tom Brady throwing bombs over, around and by Smith, he would do it again.
"I really didn't learn anything, to be honest," Smith, one of two free agents the Packers signed in the off-season, said. "I'm going to say the same thing if anybody asks me if I think my team can win.
"If you don't want to win, why do you play the game? So for people to blow it out of proportion, of me saying that if we do what we're supposed to do having the No. 1 defense, I think we're going to win the game. Where was I in the wrong?"
Where Smith, a second-year player at the time, erred was in giving a team like the Patriots, who look for any source of motivation, exactly that. Sure, it was artificial, but coach Bill Belichick gladly used Smith's truly innocuous words against.
"We're going to win," Smith said at the time. "Yeah, I can guarantee a win, as long as we come out and do what we got to do. Both sides of the ball are rolling, and if our special teams come through for us, we've got a good chance to win."
After Brady completed 32 of 46 passes for four touchdowns, including two that burned a bewildered Smith, the normally closed-lipped Belichick let loose on Smith.
"We've played against a lot better safeties than him, I'll tell you that," Belichick said.
"The safety play at that position was pretty inviting," Belichick said.
As far as the perceived on-field trash talk delivered by the likes of Randy Moss and Brady, Smith said it didn't happen.
"The thing is, although it may have looked different on TV, nobody was trash talking," Smith said. "It looked like Brady said something to me in the end zone, but he wasn't talking to me. He was talking to James Harrison because he had bumped Brady in the back.
"I really didn't take too much from it. I wouldn't have blamed them if they did say something to me. I would have done the same thing. I live for competition."
Not long after the Patriots game, Smith found himself in the doghouse of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. Smith was switched to strong safety and then buried on the depth chart throughout the Steelers' championship season of a year ago.
The Steelers gladly let Smith go. But from all indications, it seems as if he has landed in a very good spot with the Packers.
He's the only player on the defense with any experience in a 3-4 scheme -- and the Pittsburgh variety favored by the Packers. He's back with the position coach (Darren Perry) who helped him ascend to being a starter. And both of the Packers' projected starters, Nick Collins and Atari Bigby, haven't practiced because of a perceived contract squabble and an injury, respectively.
"All of our guys are looking at it as a great opportunity to showcase their abilities," Perry said last month.
Smith, 25, did that Wednesday when he picked off a Brian Brohm pass in 7-on-7 drills. In his role as quarterback of the defense, Smith also has looked at ease keeping the players on the same page.
"Definitely his experience in Pittsburgh has really helped him," coach Mike McCarthy said. "He looks very natural out there. He's an athletic safety. I can see why people were as high on him as they are, and I think he'll definitely factor in our safety group."
Perry, who was with the Oakland Raiders last season, said the Smith he sees now has matured. What Perry means by that is Smith has shown a seriousness about the game, both in his preparation and with the increased discipline he has displayed.
"He has starter ability," Perry said. "He had a little rough spell there in Pittsburgh and I think a lot of that was just consistency. I think if he gets consistent, he has that ability."
Just don't expect him to bite his tongue if he's asked whether his team will win on Sundays.
"I say what I feel," Smith said. "That's the way I was brought up. So, yeah, I think my team is going to win. Every week. What's wrong with that? I don't know why people would have a problem with me saying that."
-- Copyright (c) 2009, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services