Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is pressed by rookie once more
By DAVE SKRETTA
Aug. 05, 2017
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Alex Smith has done everything in training camp that Chiefs coach Andy Reid expects of him.
He's made the tight throws and smart reads. He's thrown the ball away when things break down and avoided the big mistakes. He's changed plays when it's wise and checked down when it's prudent.
In short, Smith has been the consummate veteran quarterback.
It hasn't stopped him from feeling some heat.
As the 33-year-old incumbent has toiled away under a hot Missouri sun, Patrick Mahomes II has dazzled coaches and fans alike with natural moxie and a big arm. Smith's heir apparent is not expected to unseat him this season, even after the Chiefs traded up to select him 10th overall, but that hasn't stopped people from raving about the young gunslinger — and asking, "What if?"
What if Smith gets banged up? What if he struggles early in the year?
"When you're drafting a guy that early, you're hoping he's bringing that quality. That is an unwritten and unsaid and untalked-about deal," Smith said. "When the quarterback is really good, then it's really competitive and we do compete in everything. We do all the time. We keep score in everything. The better everyone is then I think that's going to make everyone better, myself included."
That's exactly the response you would expect from a quarterback who's been through this before.
He was in Mahomes' place once upon a time, a first-round pick carrying all the expectations, though he didn't have a veteran from whom to learn. And over the years, the 49ers and Chiefs have drafted all kinds of quarterbacks intent on stealing his starting job.
Colin Kaepernick succeeded in San Francisco. Aaron Murray and Kevin Hogan failed in Kansas City.
So this is nothing new for Smith, the steady game manager everyone is always trying to unseat. And if he feels the pressure of Mahomes nipping at his heels, he's not letting on.
"Like I said, it's about the quality," Smith explained. "Certainly Pat fits that. The kid is really talented. I think the quality of the room — when that's always getting better, that's a good thing."
Smith is entering his fifth season in Kansas City and coming off one of his best. He threw for a career-best 3,502 yards last season with 15 touchdowns and only eight picks, and his 67.1 completion percentage was also among the best of his career. He also compiled those numbers despite missing a start with concussion-like symptoms.
The Chiefs parlayed his stable week-to-week performances into a 12-4 record and the AFC West title, giving Smith a 41-20 record as the starting quarterback in Kansas City.
That's hardly the record of someone worth running out of town.
"I think a given is that Alex has been here, he's done well and all the guys understand that," Reid said. "There's more than just stepping back and throwing the football. That position has grown into a tough thing to pick up right away. That young kid is going to learn. That's what he's going to do. He's got a great room there to learn in between the players and coaches in there."
"Then I expect Alex to go in and win," Reid added. "That's what he's going to do."
Chiefs assistant Brad Childress has worked closely with Smith and is encouraged by the way the veteran approached the offseason. Smith worked on his arm flexibility, spent time in Hawaii doing dynamic workouts and tried to shore up some of his shortcomings.
"You're never going to have to worry about him in the offseason," Childress said. "It's kind of like the old adage, 'Every year you come back, try to come back a pound lighter.' He does that."
That motivation is easier to find when a first-round draft pick is waiting in the wings.
"I still feel like I've got a lot of bounce, a lot of pep in my step," Smith said. "In fact, it's almost like a challenge. I love coming out and keeping up and trying to beat the young guys. It's fun to me. It's a challenge. I really enjoy this time because of that."
NOTES: DT Bennie Logan left practice Saturday with a sore knee. DT David King (ankle), CB Leon McQuay (neck) and LB Reshard Cliett (finger) also left practice early. ... RB Charcandrick West returned to the practice field after dealing with a sore ankle.