Smith focused on defense, not dollars

Harrison Smith said he doesn’t think a new contract will be announced at the start of training camp, but he wants to remain a Viking long-term and thrive in a defense he loves.

As the finals days count down to the Vikings arriving for training camp, there is a sense of excitement around it that is palpable.
One player who is especially looking forward to getting the season underway with the start of training camp this weekend is safety Harrison Smith. He is ready to make his mark with the Vikings and earn the second contract so many believe is coming in the next few weeks or months. But Smith isn’t worrying himself about what agents and team officials work on behind the scenes and doesn’t expect to have a big announcement at the start of training camp.

“I don’t think so,” Smith said. “Hopefully I’ll be here for a while. I don’t know what will happen, but hopefully I’ll be here for a while. I’m just real excited about getting training camp started. I’m not focused on much of anything outside of playing.”

The most nervous time for coaches is the six weeks in between minicamp and training camp. A lot of players use that time as their last chance to kick back and hang out with friends and family – the type of activity that used to get coaches like Brad Childress to admonish, “Don’t be the guy!”

But Smith has his eyes on the prize. He’s working out and making sure he shows up ready to hit the ground running and so are a lot of his veteran teammates. They may take different approaches as to how they get that job done, but they all have the same purpose at the end of the day.

“You don’t want to lose what you’ve been building over the six or seven weeks of OTAs,” Smith said. “You have to prepare yourself as far as training and work out – preparing yourself for a long season. Guys do it different ways. Some guys go to a workout place away from their home so it’s like their own training camp. I like to go home and work out because that’s what I’ve always done. Other people will stay here. It’s just whatever works for you.”

Entering his second season in Mike Zimmer’s aggressive defense, Smith is quick to tell people to tap on the brakes when believing Purple People Eaters 2.0 are on the horizon, but he and his fellow veterans are in the second year in the scheme and the shorthand they have developed has helped them get a new perspective on what Zimmer and his coaching staff is trying to accomplish.

“I try not to be too ahead ourselves with things like that because it’s a different team every year with different people,” Smith said. “We have to all be on the same page. But from the individual standpoint, it is like night and day from last year. I already have the base of so many plays you’ve had under Zim and his defense and how he wants it. It’s easier to grasp the picture that he wants practiced. It’s easier to pick up on the smaller things because I don’t have to focus on the big picture as much.”

While Smith is trying to curb the enthusiasm by anointing the Vikings as a defensive juggernaut – after all, they finished with a losing record in Zimmer’s first season as head coach – there is a lot of reason for optimism.

Zimmer’s defense is known for being player-friendly for those who grasp the concept of bringing the fight to an offense rather than sitting back and trying to contain big plays. That’s especially true at safety, where Smith is enjoying himself as much as he ever has in his football life.

“I can’t think of any defense that would be more fun to play in – for every position,” Smith said. “So many guys get to do different jobs. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s freedom, because you have a specific job on every play. But you just get to do different jobs. It’s fun and you really can get involved in every aspect of the game, especially at the safety position – blitzing, dropping in the box, play zone, playing man-to-man. You pretty much get to do everything a defensive player does.”

That fun starts anew this weekend. If the Vikings have their way, it won’t end until January or February. But it all starts with the baby steps of training camp and Smith is as ready as he’s ever been to make the most out of every step along the way to the 2015 season and how it plays out.

“We’re all looking forward to it,” Smith said. “I don’t know of anybody who loves training camp, but we’ve got a lot of confidence heading into this season and all of that starts with the work we do down in Mankato and builds from there.”

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