Lions Notebook: Rookie Smith Cashing In

Kevin Smith (Getty)

The reason for rookie Kevin Smith's on-the-ground success? Simple: "'Cause I'm getting the ball," Smith said. More inside, including player notes.

Rookie running back Kevin Smith stormed out of the locker room without speaking to reporters Sunday after the Lions' 31-22 loss at Carolina, even though he had just recorded his first career 100-yard game.

But he held court Monday, with a smile, putting the best face on the Lions' awful 0-10 situation.

"It's very bitter," Smith said. "With individual success, you want to have team success and vice versa. Yeah, 100 yards, it was OK. But every back on the field yesterday had 100 yards."

Smith laughed. He had a career-high 112 rushing yards. But the Panthers had two 100-yard rushers for the first time in their history, with Jonathan Stewart rushing for 130, DeAngelo Williams 120.

"I was leading them at halftime," Smith said. "But after that, they caught up and blew me out of the water."

Smith has come alive lately. He had 96 rushing yards the previous week in a 38-14 loss to Jacksonville.

The reason is simple.

"'Cause I'm getting the ball," Smith said. "It's obvious. I do have the college record for carries."

Smith had 450 carries for Central Florida last year and finished 62 yards shy of the record 2,628 set at Oklahoma State by Lions great Barry Sanders. The more he gets the ball, the better he runs.

The Lions gave him a career-high 23 carries against the Jaguars, then topped that with 24 carries against the Panthers. Smith's previous high was 16 carries in the season opener at Atlanta. He started the first four games. But he was feeling things out more than running hard, and the Lions fell behind so badly they didn't run the ball much, anyway.

Veteran Rudi Johnson started the next four games. Smith was unhappy.

"I had complaints within the organization," Smith said. "I wasn't crying or nothing, but I wanted the ball more. I wanted to be able to show the reason they drafted me. Their answer was, 'Wait. Wait, and when your time is called, you better be ready.'"

Smith said he was "hungry like they caged me. I was like a caged animal. I had so much buildup. That's the reason why you see me doing things like jumping in the stands in Houston and stuff like that. That's not like my game. That's not what I do. But I had so much rage and buildup that that's my first reaction."

Sometimes Smith wonders why he couldn't be like rookie Chris Johnson, his buddy on the 10-0 Titans. But he's trying to look at the bright side of 0-10. He said he would rather be 0-10 at this point of his career than later.

"You learn how to fight adversity," Smith said. "If I go 10-0 this year and I go 0-10 next year, I don't think maybe my practice habits would be the same. I don't think I would work as hard. But if I can keep on working at 0-10, when I go 10-0, you're definitely going to work.

"It's a good teaching tool. Don't want to be 0-10. But it's a good teaching tool. I take everything I can out of it, keep on working through 16 weeks, and I'm going to go real hard in the offseason."

Player Notebook:

  • QB Daunte Culpepper was more comfortable Sunday at Carolina, making his second start less than two weeks after signing with the Lions. The offense moved much better. But Culpepper still had some miscommunications with his receivers and threw two interceptions, the last one a killer late in the fourth quarter.
  • RB Kevin Smith set career highs for carries and yards for the second straight game. This time he had 24 carries for 112 yards, giving him his first 100-yard game. The Lions are giving him the ball and letting him get into a rhythm.
  • TE Casey Fitzsimmons returned from a rib injury and caught three passes for 11 yards.
  • WR Calvin Johnson caught six passes for 65 yards, but he suffered a minor quad injury. He should be ready for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, but if he misses a lot of practice time, it could hurt the effort to build chemistry with QB Daunte Culpepper.
  • WR Mike Furrey did not travel to Carolina because of what was described as a mild concussion. The Lions had hoped he would be able to play. His status is uncertain.
  • DE Jared DeVries said he will play against Tampa Bay after missing one game with a broken hand. The stitches from surgery come out Friday. He will play with a protective cast.
  • DE Ikaika Alama-Francis suffered a mild concussion at Carolina and likely will be limited in practice this week.
  • S Dwight Smith was scheduled to run full-speed Tuesday after missing four games with a mid-foot sprain. The Lions hope to get a good read on the situation.
  • C Dominic Raiola said he would try to practice with a protective cast on his broken right thumb. He has abandoned trying to snap left-handed because of the footwork involved.
  • K Jason Hanson is 6-for-6 on field goals of 50 yards or more. He has kicked 39 from that distance in his career, only one behind all-time leader Morten Andersen.

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