Smith plans to stay aggressive, improve

Hard-hitting safety Harrison Smith doesn't plan on changing his style of play, but he knows he can still improve in the second half of his rookie season. He talked about his style of play, his progress as a rookie and the future.

With each passing week, it is becoming clearer that the Vikings knew what they were doing when they traded up into the end of the first round of last April's draft to select safety Harrison Smith. He was drafted with the anticipation of being an immediate starter because of both his talent and the glaring need for a playmaking safety.

While he is getting valuable experience, Smith hasn't lost sight of the fact that he's new to the NFL and has plenty to learn. By his own admission, he views himself as a rookie who still has a long learning curve in front of him.

"I'm definitely still a rookie and still have a lot to learn, but I'm confident in my play and expect myself to make plays each week," Smith said. "If I miss plays, I get upset about it and I want to fix it. I'm still a rookie. Definitely. By no means do I have everything figured out, but I'm confident in how I'm playing."

With his improvement, Smith is getting noticed – both by opposing offensive coordinators and via FedEx letters from New York. His hard-hitting style and willingness to launch himself like a human dart at the player with the ball has already earned two fines, and being kicked out of a game after pushing aside a referee to get into the face of an opponent has put him on the radar as a player willing and able to deliver the knockout punch. While he is mild-mannered (some might contend even a bit shy) off the field, put a helmet on him and he becomes a different person.

"I don't play dirty, but I play hard," Smith said. "It's my job to keep offenses from picking up yardage and that means sometimes laying a big hit on somebody. That's part of the game I enjoy. I try as best I can to play under control at all times, but we have an aggressive defense and you want to build that reputation that if you come into my area of the field, you're going to get hit. I've had a couple of penalties called on me for being too aggressive, but I can't really change the way I play. It's how I do things on the football field and I don't see that changing. I'm aggressive."

The Vikings' recent struggles have seen them lose two of their last three games, but Smith is convinced the Vikings have a good thing going and they aren't hanging their heads over a humbling loss last Thursday to Tampa Bay. Instead, they are viewing it as a learning experience from which they can grow and get better, something they will need given the brutality of the second half of the schedule.

"In those games where we weren't as successful, like the game with Indianapolis and last week with Tampa Bay, it's not like we're that far off," Smith said. "It's not like we need to make a radical change. It's the little things, like consistently wrapping up on tackles and finishing plays. Those are things that are correctable. It's not radical things, it's just little details."

Smith's maturation as an NFL safety is becoming more and more evident with each passing game. He credits defensive coordinator Alan Williams with his speedy ascent from wet-behind-the-ears kid to becoming a leader in the secondary. He has embraced Williams' coaching philosophy and believes it has been a perfect fit for him.

"I'm just getting comfortable," Smith said. "Coach Williams has done a good job of not putting too much on us – he doesn't throw so much at us that it makes it hard to play. I'm just getting more and more comfortable with my role in the defense."

Smith has made a fan out of one of the Vikings' defensive leaders – linebacker Chad Greenway. At a time when Greenway is having arguably the most impactful season of his NFL career, he is impressed with what he has seen in his rookie teammate.

"He never stops hustling and hitting," Greenway said. "He picks up on everything we're doing so quickly and it translates almost immediately out on the field. We have a defense in which all 11 guys are swarming to the ball and (Smith) is always one of those guys who is always there when a play comes his way. You've got to love his hustle."

In the big picture, Smith's career is still in its infancy. If things go as planned, he will be a dominant player in the Vikings secondary for the next decade and be one of the foundation pieces the Vikings use to build a team capable of winning the Super Bowl title that has eluded them for almost a half-century. He is aware of the building process and, for the time being anyway, is satisfied being a member of the backup band and not one of the lead singers.

"I'm still just a rookie," Smith said with the hint of smile. "Check back in a month or two. Maybe I'll feel a little different about it then, but, with the leaders that we have on this defense, all I need to do is be someone who helps complement them. Hopefully, I will pick up more and more of the little things that make players good and become one of those guys. But for now, all I can do is try to make a difference where I can. If I do that and the other younger guys on our team do their part, we're going to have something special here."


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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By no means do I have everything figured out, but I'm confident in how I'm playing.\" With his improvement, Smith is getting noticed – both by opposing offensive coordinators and via FedEx letters from New York. His hard-hitting style and willingness to launch himself like a human dart at the player with the ball has already earned two fines, and being kicked out of a game after pushing aside a referee to get into the face of an opponent has put him on the radar as a player willing and able to deliver the knockout punch. While he is mild-mannered (some might contend even a bit shy) off the field, put a helmet on him and he becomes a different person. \"I don't play dirty, but I play hard,\" Smith said. \"It's my job to keep offenses from picking up yardage and that means sometimes laying a big hit on somebody. That's part of the game I enjoy. 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