That was some of Malcolm Smith talking following his first full work on the field with the Seahawks since February’s Super Bowl.
In this morning’s practice, Smith was almost as good as he was in last game.
This was far from being the Super Bowl’s most valuable player, of course. It was only a Tuesday morning before the third exhibition game. But what Smith did during the final, team scrimmaging exemplifies why Seattle’s defense just got a lot healthier in more ways than one with his return from ankle surgery in the spring.
He ran across the middle of the field from left to right, tightly trailing his assigned receiver. The pass from quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was high and behind his target — high and behind Smith, too. The linebacker leaped and in one, brilliantly athletic motion pulled his left arm up and back to cuff the ball out of the air with his hand and wrist. Smith somehow kept his balance and then zoomed past the stunned offense, coaches, waterboys and everyone else to the end zone directly outside the locker room.
My colleague Dave Boling has been watching practices for oh, a day or two. Standing next to me on the sideline, about 10 yards from where Smith snagged the interception, Boling let out an loud “WOW!” as Smith ran away from us. He says it’s one of the top five plays he’s seen at any Seattle football practice in 30 years.
I mean, it was something, certainly not too shabby for a seventh-round draft choice in 2011. All his fellow linebackers ran down the field to jump on him in the end zone. All-Pro safety Earl Thomas ran the field behind them to join in the fun. The defensive players — starters and reserves alike — gleefully chanted “MVP! MVP!”
The only main differences from his interception return for a score off Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl was that Manning’s pass was tipped — and, oh yeah, it was the Super Bowl.
That, and there wasn’t a goal post today on that end of the practice field over which Smith could dunk the ball after his score.
Again, this was his first time in full participation with the Seahawks since the Super Bowl more 6 1/2 months ago.
“Just doing my job,” Smith said, just about shrugging. “I haven’t seen it yet (on film).
“It’s never as good as it feels.”
This one was.
Smith had the surgery just before the Seahawks’ minicamps in early May. Coach Pete Carroll has said it was to clean up “loose bodies” in Smith’s ankle.
Smith said the injury just sort of “caught me off guard” following the Super Bowl but that his ankle did not bother him at all last season when he had 50 tackles, most in his three years with the Seahawks. The team’s medical staff advised him in April to have the surgery, “and it took me longer than I expected to get back,” he said. “But it’s not easy to get out here playing football.
“I’ve been itching. Coming off a pretty good game (pretty good?) and we do some great stuff in the Super Bowl, it was just a lull for me. A lot of down time. A lot watching. A lot of learning, dealing with my own emotions and stuff every day. So it was good to get out here today and start moving around a little bit.”
As for the fame that accompanied being the unexpected Super Bowl MVP — the trip to Disney World, the new Chevrolet truck that he gave to his mother, Audrey, to customize it; “gun-metal with the black rims,” as he told TMZ about a week after the Super Bowl — Smith said that didn’t change him much.
“My life hasn’t changed. A lot of people care about you a little bit more,” he said. “Other than that, not much.”
So there wasn’t a Malcolm Smith Day back home in Northridge, Calif., home to his older brother Steve, a Super Bowl winner in 2008 with the New York Giants, A Beautiful and Frost/Nixon film producer Brian Grazer, NFL quarterback Matt Cassell, NBA players Jason and Jarron Collins, Major League Baseball pitchers Jeff and Jared Weaver — and, “ayyyyy,” Bob Brunner, the television producer who created “Fonzie” on Happy Days.
“No,” Smith said, smiling, “no Malcolm Smith Day. There are a lot more famous people where I’m from.”
As great as Smith looked in his return today, I would be surprised if he plays much if at all Friday in the third exhibition against Chicago.
–Rookie wide receiver Paul Richardson sped past cornerback Phillip Adams and safety Steven Terrell, into the end zone to receive B.J. Daniels’ precise, 40-yard pass in stride — and then 20 yards past the end line onto an empty back field. It was why Seattle used its first pick in May’s draft, in the second round, on the blur who said he once ran a 4.28-second 40-yard dash while at Colorado.
“That’s what I’m supposed to do, man. Make plays down field,” Richardson said.
The Seahawks are really high on what Richardson will be able to do — this season perhaps right away as a kickoff returner, and down the road as a big-play wide receiver. Speed, after all, thrills.
–The NFL has announced the formerly eight-man practice squad for the regular season is now 10, effective this season. The league also upped the maximum number of game-weeks spent on a practice squad for that season to count as one of a player’s maximum of three years of practice-squad eligibility, to six games. It used to be three.
There are other permutations to the new rule that, honestly, make my head hurt. But suffice to say that they are now 64 new jobs in the league during the regular season — two additional practice-squad slots for each of 32 teams — and that some Seahawks that weren’t practice-squad eligible before may be now. That may include wide receiver Phil Bates.
And to answer a question here on the blog this morning, yes, Daniels was eligible for the practice squad this season even before this rule change. That’s if he and any other Seahawks clears waivers after the final cut date to 53 men on Aug. 30 — and before the practice squads can be set starting on Aug. 31.
Here are the upcoming cut days:
Aug. 26, 1 p.m. Pacific time: All teams must reduce rosters to a maximum of 75 players on its active roster.
Aug. 30, 1 p.m,. Pacific time: All teams must reduce rosters to a maximum of 53 players on its active roster for the regular season. This is two days after the Seahawks’ final exhibition game, at Oakland. Aug. 30 is also the day teams must designate any players on the physically-unable-to-perform list as either onto the regular-season PUP list, onto injured reserve, waived, having his contract terminated, traded or counted on the active list. The only Seahawk still on a PUP list is linebacker Bruce Irvin, whom coach Pete Carroll said yesterday could begin practicing in the next two weeks.
Aug. 31, 9 a.m. Pacific time: Deadline to claim players placed on league waivers the previous day. Teams can begin to sign now up to 10 free agents to their practice squads at this same hour that day.