ALLEN PARK -- When the Detroit Lions traded for cornerback Alphonso Smith in September of 2010, expectations weren’t high for the cornerback.
Smith was a former second-round selection who failed to win the trust of the Denver Broncos coaching staff during his rookie season, and he was quickly dispatched.
After arriving in Detroit, however, he quickly caught the eye of the coaching staff and earned a starting role in the Lions secondary.
Smith led the team in interceptions in 2010, nabbing five in 12 games. He was starting opposite Chris Houston and even scored a touchdown, a celebration that soon went viral.
Things were going great for the second-year player, until Thanksgiving Day. The Lions hosted the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady took advantage of Smith’s tendency to gamble on plays. Brady finished with 341 yards and four touchdowns, including a 79-yard pass to Deon Branch, who was covered by Smith.
Smith injured his right shoulder in the team’s next contest and was soon placed on the Injured Reserved list, ending his season.
This year, a broken foot forced Smith to miss all of training camp. He has since made a full recovery from his injuries but has not found his way back into the line-up.
“I’ve been healthy for a while,” said Smith. “The fact of the matter is, we’re 5-0 with the guys that are playing. I’m just awaiting another opportunity and just going to continue to give the offense good work in practice.”
Smith, who remains on the Lions 53-man roster, has only been active for one game this season. He has spent the majority of team scrimmages helping the offense prepare for the upcoming opponent by simulating the opposing defense.
There is no clear indication as to why Smith has fell so far down the depth chart but he is doing the one thing he can do: work.
“The only thing I can do is continue to work hard and make sure I prepare,” said Smith. “This league, you never know what’s going to happen. Just have to be a professional and be mature about the situation and make sure you’re prepared, so when you’re number is called, there isn’t a drop off.”
The organization sees potential in Smith. He has outstanding ball skills, good speed and is a hard worker. His future in Detroit hasn’t disappeared but he will need to take advantage of the next opportunity he has on the field.
Until then, you won’t hear Smith complain about his role.
“I always pride myself on not being that guy,” said Smith. “The fact of the matter is we are winning and we’re 5-0. Who am I to go up and tell anyone that I’m supposed to be playing and glorify myself and tell them what they need to do? I’m not that guy.”
Smith has a burning desire to get on the field. He wants to contribute and regain the role he enjoyed last season. He hasn’t stopped working and he hasn’t stopped caring.
Until he gets his chance, he will keep his head down, support his teammates and work.
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