O Smith ... can't play him this week ... pass me the beer nuts.
Smith can control his own destiny if he plays with renewed intensity. Tice has commented that Smith looked very determined in practice this week. As for Smith's view, the good news is that he seems to have gotten religion about what he has to do. I wouldn't start him this week, but there's hope that he'll get more touches later if he gives the right effort this wek. I actually think the yards Smith gains are far less important than how he handles his blocking and receiving assignments, and his overall on-field intensity. Here's the view from Smith:
Posted on Fri, Sep. 12, 2003
Onterrio Smith vows to prepare better
BY SEAN JENSEN
Vikings running back Onterrio Smith expected to make his NFL debut Sunday in the season opener against the Green Bay Packers. He knew he wouldn't start, but he figured he would play. So he waited... and waited...
When he returned to the locker room afterward, Smith didn't have to throw his clean uniform into the dirty clothes hamper. Smith and backup center Cory Withrow were the only active players who didn't get on the field.
Smith knew why.
"I was just excited, because we came to Lambeau Field and really put a whupping on them," said Smith, the self-proclaimed "Steal of the Draft" because he was selected in the fourth round. "At the same time, I was kind of down a little bit, but I looked back and said to myself, 'I didn't have a great week of practice. I didn't give them the confidence they need to believe in me to go out there and make plays. So it's on myself to come in this week and get better.' "
The biggest concern about Smith is his ability to pass block, but he said he didn't miss any of those assignments Sunday. The problems were things he knew how to do well.
"I wasn't being a pro, not finishing out plays," he said.
He didn't turn up field with purpose after catching a pass, and he didn't block for receivers.
"I see why they went about it the way they did," he said.
Smith had better get a handle on things quickly. His opportunity to shine is now. The top two primary running backs, Michael Bennett and Doug Chapman, are injured, walking around in boots. But Chapman is healing fast, and Bennett received encouraging news this week about playing this season.
Chapman could be contending for the starting job now if not for a high ankle sprain. He played in the season opener but had a setback this week, and he's concerned about how he's going to handle his injury.
"It's a Catch-22," Chapman said. "I don't want to just sit here. But at the same time, I know I'm not letting it heal properly. It's real frustrating."
Smith got the bulk of Chapman's workload this week, and he has been told by coach Mike Tice and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan that he will play. How much he plays will be determined by his effectiveness.
"A lot of times, you find out you got a guy who is better than you really anticipated because you really haven't given him a chance yet. That's what I hope with him," Linehan said. "I know Onterrio is chomping at the bit to get in there, but he also realizes that he has to have a great week of practice to earn that right."
Veteran Moe Williams will again start the game, and John Avery will play in situations. That means the Chicago Bears will have to deal with contrasting styles.
"A defense can figure out what a running back is doing during the course of a game," Williams said. "But when you have a running back by committee, it's hard for them. That throws a wrinkle into the offense."
Smith welcomes the competition.
"I only started one year, as the man, out of my whole collegiate career, so it's something I'm used to," he said. "I don't mind it."
Tice has an open policy on ball distribution.
"I see us keeping the competition on, and keep feeding the hot hand," he said. "But my comfort level is with Moe."
But Smith not playing in the opener didn't exactly send shock waves through the locker room. Pro Bowl center Matt Birk didn't know Smith didn't play until someone told him after the game.
"We know whoever is back there is going to run hard," Birk said, "and we just try to block for them."