Smith, who signed with the Bills as a free agent last week, can run like a running back, throw like a quarterback, and catch like a receiver, and with his new team he’ll be doing all three under the guidance of coach Chan Gailey, who tutored the original “Slash,” Kordell Stewart, while the two were together in Pittsburgh in the mid-1990s.
“I see him being used in a similar role,” Gailey said about his Smith. “He can play some receiver and quarterback, and gives you a lot of versatility. He can play special teams, cover kicks and return kicks. He can do a lot to help a football team win games.”
Winning has certainly been the problem the past decade for a Bills team that hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 1999.
Smith, meanwhile, has gone to the past two AFC championship games with the New York Jets after being drafted out of Missouri as a dynamic quarterback in the fourth round of the 2006 draft.
That winning mentality is yet another item he’ll be bringing to the Bills, who have lagged behind the rest of the AFC East in recent years.
“I think we’ve got a group of guys that may not be the most respected group of guys because of whatever reason, but we’re so talented right now that we’re going to prove a lot of people wrong,” Smith said. “We’re in a tough division, but you wouldn’t want it to be any other way. It’s going to bring out the best in us. It’s not about who you have on the roster, it’s about what you do with it.”
Smith and the rest of Buffalo’s key free agents — linebacker Nick Barnett, quarterback Tyler Thigpen, and cornerback Drayton Florence — have been participating in team meetings the past few days, but had yet to hit the practice field due to the collective bargaining agreement not being ratified.
“I’ve never been this excited for a practice so I just can’t wait,” Smith said Thursday morning after the team’s walk-thru session. “Being out here with this hard working group of guys, I’m just excited to try and bring something to the table for them.”
Smith finally got the chance to hit the field with his fellow free agents during the Bills’ practice on Thursday night. Smith participated with the quarterbacks, but did not don a red jersey.
“It was great to see everybody and most everybody played some kind of play out there, which is great,” Gailey said after practice. “It’s good to see those guys.”
After becoming a free agent following the lockout, Smith talked at length with Gailey and liked what he heard. After accumulating 767 rushing yards and 557 receiving yards with the Jets, Smith is anxious to build upon those numbers after primarily returning kicks the past two seasons.
“Coach Gailey’s passion for this team and his vision for where he wants this to go, I want to be a part of it,” Smith said.
Smith will spend most of his time during training camp with the quarterbacks, but he said he’ll also be running some routes with receivers, returning kicks, and playing some special teams.
“The quarterback stuff is so I can grasp the entirety of the offense, and then kind of expand from there,” he said. “It’s a great plan by Coach Gailey and I want to keep growing on it. I try to earn everything that’s given to me, and that’s the way I’m approaching it.”
Along with starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Smith will be spending plenty of time with Thigpen, who also signed as a free agent last week due in large part to his past relationship with Gailey while the two were in Kansas City.
“He’s been a great mentor for me,” Thigpen said. “Last year when he started winning some games at the latter part of the season, I would text him congratulations. So we definitely have a good relationship.” Notes: TE David Martin sat out the night practice with a toe injury but Gailey expects him to be back soon. … DT Marcel Dareus, the team’s first-round draft pick, hobbled off the field toward the end of the night practice but Gailey expects him to be back Friday. … WR David Nelson left the field after some breathing problems according to Gailey, but he is expected to be fine. … TE Shawn Nelson, WR Marcus Easley and LB Kelvin Sheppard also sat out of night practice.