Smith looking to fill multiple roles with Broncos
ENGLEWOOD, Colorado – The tattoo on Alphonso Smith’s shoulder depicts a coiled panther ready to strike. Above the black-inked predator are the words, “Hungry for more.”
“As soon as cats in the wild relax, even for a little bit, guess what? They can be fooled. They can get passed up easily,” the Denver Broncos rookie cornerback said after Wednesday’s training camp practice.
“That’s why I got it,” added Smith, who had the tattoo embedded into his shoulder three years ago. “It’s a constant reminder for me that there’s no time to relax. You can’t be content. There’s always more to achieve.”
Broncos Coach Josh McDaniels is giving Smith every chance to do just that, refusing to place any limitations on his development or narrowly define a role for a player who excelled as a defensive back, return man, punt blocker and special teams tackler during his career at Wake Forest.
“Alphonso’s role will be determined by what Alphonso does,” McDaniels said of Smith, who was drafted in the second round with the pick the Broncos obtained from Seattle in exchange for their 2010 first-round pick.
“We’re going to evaulate him. We’re going to put him in many positions. I’ll give him as many opportunities as he can to carve out a great role for himself, just like we will with the rest of our secondary. But his attitude is great and we’re hopeful for good things from him all year long.”
Smith, who led the nation with 15 interceptions in his last two seasons at Wake Forest, figures prominently in the remaking of a Broncos secondary that struggled to hold up last season. The Broncos also added free agent safeties Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill and cornerback Andre Goodman, and also are counting on the return to health of Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, who missed most of last season with a groin injury.
An aggressive, physical defender, Smith finished his Wake Forest career with a school record 61 pass breakups and he returned four of his 21 career interceptions for touchdowns. He also blocked five punts while displaying speed and elusiveness as a returner on punts and kickoffs and stopping power on special teams cover units.
Projected as a first-round talent, Smith may have slipped into the second round because, at 5-foot-9, he could be considered somewhat undersized in matchups against the bigger, physical receivers that are commonplace in the NFL.
Smith, understandably, doesn’t buy that line of thinking and neither did the Broncos.
“I’ve always said size and speed don’t matter as much as the ability to make a play,” Smith said. “There’s some guys that are big and fast and they can’t necessarily make a play. I’ve tried to model my game after guys with a similar body type to mine – a Rhonde Barber or Assante Samuel. It really hasn’t been a concern and it shouldn’t be in the NFL.”
In spring workouts and during the early days of training camp – the Broncos veterans report Thursday and the team follows with its first full-squad workout on Friday – Smith has played cornerback on the outside and in the slot. He also has fielded punts and kickoffs, and worked on kick and punt coverage units.
“He’s certainly learning multiple spots right now,” McDaniels said.
That’s all in keeping with Smith’s embrace of his chance to multitask for his new team.
“Coach told me whatever your role is, you’re going to determine it,” Smith said. “That means to me, you’re going to have an opportunity to play – you just have to make plays. Whatever … it takes, and wherever I am, I just want to help us win. And, hopefully, it will be playing a lot of snaps.”
NOTES: Wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who has asked to be traded, missed a second consecutive practice session Thursday because of an undisclosed injury. McDaniels said he’s not sure when Marshall will be able to return. “I’m not a doctor and I don’t want to put a timetable on anything. As soon as he’s ready to go, he’s going to be out here and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.” … First-round picks Knowshon Moreno and Robert Ayers remain unsigned. … McDaniels said he wants to see a physical camp once the team begins contact drills Friday. “We want to establish that as our style of play. We’re going to do everything we can at a great tempo because that’s the way games are played so we want to simulate what happens on game day as much as we can at every practice and get our players into that mindset.”