Sean Smith knows spirit when he sees it, and the Chiefs young defensive backs are showing him plenty.
Smith, the seventh-year veteran cornerback, has worked with the second team because he’ll serve a three-game suspension to open the season for a violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Smith pleaded guilty in the spring to a charge of DUI in Kansas City.
While he’s preparing for the season, he must help prepare others, including first-round draft selection Marcus Peters, who likely will move into the starting lineup in Smith’s absence.
“We all know he’s gifted and talented, he’s a first-round draft pick, that’s what you’d expect,” Smith said. “The way he’s picked up the defense and just the smaller things that myself or the rest of the coaching staff are trying to explain to him … he’s come a long ways. He’s picked it up very fast.”
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Mentoring younger players isn’t new to Smith. Last year, he worked closely with Phillip Gaines during his rookie season.
“He came in and started off a little shaky,” Smith said. “But you’re coaching him up, you see him get better and better every week. You’re proud of that guy, it’s like a little brother out there.”
Perhaps most satisfying to Smith, he sees no timidity from his younger teammates, who respond to a losing moment with a willingness. Rookie Steven Nelson impressed him earlier this week.
“They have that dog in them in the sense that when they get beat, they don’t get down on themselves,” Smith said. “They come back to the line of scrimmage ready to go for that next rep. In one-on-ones, Steve got beat on a play, and he took like the next three reps. He skipped me and the guys behind me and said ‘no, I need this work.’ And you appreciate that. That’s a guy who wants to get better and prove to everybody that he was worth being a top-three round pick.”
That’s not a common trait.
“Not at all,” Smith said. “Some guys get beat, coach yells at them, and they kind of fade to the back of the line and get down on themselves. But to see a guy who’s hungry and wants to take those reps to prove that he can do that, you like that.
“That’s what you want to see. If you’re out there and this guy is on the field with me, I hope he feels like that if he gets beat. I hope he lines up the next play and he gets an interception or he makes that big (pass break up) on third down.”