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Smith Hopes for Strong Start

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  • Smith Hopes for Strong Start

    Wednesday, May 3, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Perhaps more than any of the Rams’ free agent signings, linebacker Raonall Smith wanted to take his time and make the right choice.

    After the initial wave of free agency where players would rarely be allowed to leave their first visit, Smith wanted to make sure he found the proper match.

    Smith talked with plenty of teams, including Green Bay and about a possible return to Minnesota. But in the end, there was one thing that led Smith to St. Louis.

    “The opportunity,” Smith said. “They have a great team here obviously. A lot of strong offensive components, they have added a lot of defensive components. The opportunity to come in here and compete for a starting job. I’m familiar with Coach Linehan and some of the other coaches so it seemed like a pretty good fit.”

    That opportunity had been something denied to Smith with the Vikings for a variety of reasons, none more so than his propensity to come up injured. Minnesota used a second-round draft choice on Smith in 2002.

    Coming from Washington State, Smith was expected to help the Vikings’ ailing linebacker corps. Those expectations never materialized into reality, though. He injured his shoulder just before his rookie season, costing him the entire year.

    In 2003 and 2004, he played in only 14 games because of a hamstring injury and a concussion.

    “Everybody needs their health,” Smith said.

    Nobody needs it more than Smith, though. He finally got the opportunity to be on the field in 2005 when he played in all 16 games, more than he had played in his first three years combined.

    Along the way, he had six starts and racked up 30 tackles and a sack. He proved even more valuable on special teams where he had 21 tackles and a pair of fumble recoveries.

    When the time came to make a decision on his future, Smith turned to a familiar face in Rams coach Scott Linehan. Linehan knew Smith from his time as offensive coordinator in Minnesota.

    “At some point in his career, Raonall had made some errors, like a lot of young players do,” Linehan said. “But he always seemed to make plays: get a ball out, recover a fumble, make a key tackle on a kickoff. He's one of those guys that has a knack.”

    That knack was enough to land Smith a one-year contract with the Rams, where he will instantly be given an opportunity to compete for an expanded role. After signing Will Witherspoon to take over in the middle and with Pisa Tinoisamoa entrenched as the starter on the weak side, the Rams have an opening for a starter on the strong side.

    “They said the strong side is open and there will be a competition for it,” Smith said. “Nobody is going to be handed the starting job so it seemed like a pretty good fit. I have played the strong side; we are going to be running some mobile fronts which I am familiar with. I played WIL in my old position in Minnesota. It just seemed like a pretty good fit to have the opportunity to play on or off the ball.”

    Smith appeared to be an excellent athlete with plenty of potential in the team’s first minicamp. He got plenty of repetitions because of injury issues for Brandon Chillar, who is Smith’s top competition for the starting job.

    The Rams chose not to add another outside linebacker in last weekend’s draft, leaving Smith and Chillar as the odds on favorites to land the starting position. At 6-foot-2, 241 pounds, Smith is big enough to take on blockers, but athletic enough to cover anyone out of the back field. In the Rams’ scheme, Smith makes sense as a strong side starter in “bubble” coverages, where he can sort of play back off the line some.

    Having never had the chance to be a starter, Smith believes he has plenty of upside and potential that is unmet. At 27, there is still plenty of gas left in the tank. He believes there is one certain way to help him meet his potential.

    “Obviously, everyone needs help, but having a great coaching staff like they have here with Coach Venturi and Coach Haslett,” Smith said. “They have both been in the system, working with each other for 10 years so they are familiar with each other and know how to coach positions well. I think having a great staff with a lot of camaraderie can teach you the nuances of the game and make you a better player.”

    Even if Smith doesn’t earn the starting job, his special teams prowess should put him in good position to land a backup role. His versatility and speed make him a good fit on coverage teams. Smith also doesn’t lack the desire to play special teams.

    “Every linebacker has to play special teams,” Smith said. “It’s just part of the deal. Special teams is just as important as offense and defense. It’s just a different phase of the game.”

    And now Smith can move on the next phase of his career.

  • #2
    Re: Smith Hopes for Strong Start

    I heard he's got A LOT of potential, but with the injuries we never knew how good (he might be) he is. Hopefully he'll show the NFL how good he is with the Rams!
    Always and Forever a fan of the St. Louis Rams


    • #3
      Re: Smith Hopes for Strong Start

      I think Smith could have a breakout year ,in all fairness to him he hasnt had a fair crack of the whip before due to injuries but the fact he played in 16 games for the vikes last season indicates he`s over them!
      (If he does, signing him to just a one year contract could comeback to haunt us!)
      i also like the fact that he will be a good special teams player for us,i can see us having a major improvement with special teams next season,defending k/p returns atleast!
      seems to me like all our linebackers have special teams skills,which is nice to have,i also think Chillar will have a better year thanks to being coached properly,hes only known marmie since hes been in the NFL so lets hope he can raise his game under more competent coaches,may the best man/player win!


      • #4
        Re: Smith Hopes for Strong Start

        This should be a nice competition between Smith and Chillar. Smith is faster but Chillar is bigger and a more natural SOLB, in my opinion. Hopefully, a little open competition for the starting spot will take both their games to the next level.
        The more things change, the more they stay the same.


        • #5
          Re: Smith Hopes for Strong Start

          If Smith stays healthy...... he could be a great starting SLB.... but i think Chillar will get the starting job..... Its time for Chillar to shine!!!!!!!


          Related Topics


          • RamWraith
            Rams Notebook: Newcomer Smith just wants to play
            by RamWraith
            By Bill Coats
            Sunday, Apr. 23 2006

            It rhymes with "panel," Rams linebacker Raonall Smith said, clarifying the
            pronunciation of his first name.

            "My mom's Irish, so she gave my brother (Kealan) and I Irish names," he

            Yet Smith has lacked the luck of the Irish when it comes to his NFL career. A
            second-round draft pick in 2002 by Minnesota, Smith battled injuries throughout
            his first three seasons.

            He missed his entire rookie year with a shoulder injury. In 2003 and '04, he
            played in a total of just 14 games; a bad hamstring and a concussion were the
            culprits. So it's understandable that Smith, 27, said staying injury-free was a
            key component for him this season.

            "Obviously, everybody needs their health," said Smith, a former Washington
            State standout.

            New Rams coach Scott Linehan was the Vikings' offensive coordinator from 2002
            through '04, so he is familiar with Smith.

            "At a point in his career, Raonall had made some errors, like a lot of young
            players do," Linehan said. "But he always seemed to make plays: get a ball out,
            recover a fumble, make a key tackle on a kickoff. He's one of those guys that
            has a knack."

            Smith finally got through a season unscathed, playing in all 16 games last
            year, with six starts. He collected 30 tackles and a sack. On special teams, he
            added 21 tackles, the second-highest total among the Vikings, and two fumble
            recoveries. So when Smith became available as a free agent, the Rams pounced.

            He received a one-year deal worth $750,000, including a $150,000 signing bonus.
            He also visited Green Bay and planned to meet with Miami officials.

            Smith, who is 6-foot-2 and 241 pounds, said he chose the Rams for two reasons:
            His familiarity with Linehan and several assistant coaches, plus a chance to
            compete for a starting job at strongside linebacker.

            "It seemed like a pretty good fit," Smith said. "I still feel like I'm a young
            player with an upside."

            Special teams is probably where he'll have the greatest impact, at least

            "Every linebacker's going to play special teams; it's just part of the deal,"
            he said. "Special teams are just as important as the offense and the defense;
            it's just a different phase of the game."

            Dinner with Young

            Rams offensive coordinator Greg Olson and quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier
            headed for Houston after Sunday's final minicamp practice, where they had a
            dinner date with quarterback Vince Young.

            Young, who guided Texas to the national...
            -04-24-2006, 04:21 AM
          • RamWraith
            Smith gets a chance to start with Rams
            by RamWraith
            By Jim Thomas
            Sunday, Aug. 06 2006

            Paul Smith came into the NFL as an unheralded fifth-round pick out of Texas-El

            In six NFL seasons with San Francisco and Detroit, he has only one touchdown on
            his resume.

            A fullback-halfback 'tweener, his very modest career totals are 210 yards
            rushing and 182 yards receiving. To put that in perspective, Marshall Faulk has
            topped those rushing and receiving totals in a single game.

            Fittingly, Smith joined the Rams with no fanfare May 6, signing a one-year deal
            paying him $585,000 in base salary.

            And at Saturday's scrimmage, when the Rams' offensive unit broke the huddle for
            its first play - there was Smith, again minus the fanfare, with the starters.

            "I guess they like what I've done at practice," Smith, 28, said. "I'm happy for
            the opportunity to do that. Hopefully, I'll run with it and do well."

            Smith learned Friday that he would work with the starting unit - ahead of last
            year's Rams starter, Madison Hedgecock.

            Kind of made your day, right?

            "Oh yeah," Smith said. "It made my whole year."

            Whether Smith holds on to the job remains to be seen. But he has clearly made
            an impression with coach Scott Linehan and his staff.

            "A fullback's role is a thankless job," Linehan said. "Paul comes out every
            day, and he tries to put it right on the numbers and put a guy on his back. And
            that's what you're looking for. Plus, he has the ability to catch the ball."

            Previously, Smith had carved out a niche for himself in the NFL as a hard-nosed
            special teams player.

            "I've always been the wedge-buster, things like that," Smith said. "Setting the
            tempo for games. Sticking my nose in there on lead blocks and things like that."

            Over the years, Smith has gotten a few chances at halfback and fullback, for
            three seasons with Steve Mariucci in San Francisco, and then following Mariucci
            to Detroit in 2003.

            Smith has been slowed by injuries at times. He missed five weeks in 2002 in San
            Francisco with a hamstring injury. He missed the entire 2004 season in Detroit
            with a shoulder injury.

            On the field, whether it was at halfback or fullback, Smith rarely touched the
            football. In 55 NFL games, he has only 46 carries and 18 receptions. His career
            high in receptions - five - came in '03, when Smith's Lions upset the Rams
            30-20 in a regular-season finale that cost St. Louis home-field advantage in
            the playoffs.

            But playing fullback, Smith says, "is not about stats. What your running back
            -08-07-2006, 05:00 AM
          • r8rh8rmike
            Smith Progressing Well
            by r8rh8rmike
            Smith Progressing Well
            Tuesday, August 18, 2009

            By Nick Wagoner
            Senior Writer

            After almost every practice since the Rams made him the No. 2 pick in this year’s NFL Draft, Jason Smith can be found out on the practice field doing two things.

            First and foremost, Smith has made a habit of staying after practice to work with offensive line coaches Art Valero and Steve Loney on something he feels needed improvement from the just-completed workout.

            When that is done, about 20 minutes later, Smith can be found hauling around the pads of his veteran teammates.

            “It’s what I am but I am not doing it just to be doing it,” Smith said. “It’s something that I need to work on that day technically or physically. There’s always something to work on.”

            Such is the life of a rookie in the NFL. And while those parts of it are normal, Smith’s approach to the game is anything but.

            The Rams completed their final two a day practice of this year’s training camp on Tuesday afternoon. With that, the team is almost halfway through the preseason and Smith’s development process is in full swing.

            From the moment he arrived in St. Louis, plenty of people have placed some weighty expectations on Smith but the coaching staff has ignored that and asked Smith to earn his position.

            Until Tuesday, Smith had extremely limited repetitions with the first team offense as he has worked almost exclusively as the second-team right tackle behind Adam Goldberg.

            Nothing has been handed to him and Smith has asked for nothing in return. Instead, Smith is lapping up every opportunity to learn the game from his veteran teammates.

            Nary a player has been more helpful in that regard than Goldberg. Although Goldberg and Smith are technically competing for the job at right tackle, neither seems too concerned with beating out the other.

            Quite the opposite, in fact.

            “I take that as part of my role but I tell you what, he doesn’t need too many tips,” Goldberg said. “He’s going to be a really good football player and he’s a great person too, the kind of guy that you like to help out because he works hard, doesn’t take anything for granted, takes good notes, asks good questions. So he’s the type of young player that you want to help and want to see succeed.”

            The modest Goldberg won’t take much credit for helping Smith learn the nuances of the NFL but Smith is quick to credit Goldberg for stepping into the mentor role.

            “I feel that if Goldberg wasn’t here I would have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off,” Smith said. “What is the competition? The competition is Rams vs. whoever we play. It’s not amongst each other. Obviously we are going to make each other better by communicating things we see but if he wasn’t here, how far along would I...
            -08-18-2009, 08:23 PM
          • RamWraith
            Rams Notebook: R. Smith is grateful for healthy stretch
            by RamWraith
            By Bill Coats
            Saturday, Dec. 30 2006

            Barring a last-minute setback, Rams linebacker Raonall Smith will achieve a
            modest milestone Sunday in Minnesota: He'll complete a full season without
            missing a game for just the second time in his five-year NFL career.

            "It's nice to be injury-free," said Smith, whose first name is of Irish
            derivation and rhymes with "panel."

            In the 2002 NFL draft, only 37 players were selected ahead of Smith, a
            Washington State product taken in the second round by the Vikings. But a
            shoulder injury scuttled his entire rookie season, and he played in a total of
            just 14 games over the following two years, when a bad hamstring and a severe
            concussion limited him.

            "He's had a number of injuries, and really, that's the only thing that's kept
            him off the field," said coach Scott Linehan, who was the Vikings' offensive
            coordinator from 2002-04.

            The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Smith, 28, finally managed to stay healthy in 2005,
            when he amassed a career-high 30 tackles for the Vikings. In April, the Rams
            signed Smith, a free agent, to a one-year contract for $750,000.

            He fills a three-pronged role here: He's busy on special teams, he backs up
            Brandon Chillar at strongside linebacker, and he comes in on passing downs as
            what defensive coordinator Jim Haslett terms the "buck end."

            Defining the "buck end" duties is difficult, Smith noted. "It changes from
            week to week," he said. "Sometimes you get to rush the passer out of an odd or
            even front; sometimes there's (pass) coverage responsibilities."

            Said Linehan: "It's a good fit for him, because one of his strengths is being
            able to be a big, powerful linebacker who has pass-rush ability, and who can
            drop (into coverage). He's embraced that role and done a good job of it."

            Smith's nine tackles on defense include 1½ sacks. He leads the team in
            special-teams stops, with 13.

            "It's gone pretty good so far, I guess; I'm just taking it as it goes," Smith
            said. "I'm really enjoying playing here. I like my teammates, the coaching
            staff and the organization. I just wish we had a couple of more wins."

            Incentive to win

            Playoffs or no playoffs, an 8-8 finish with a three-game winning streak would
            provide positive thrust heading into 2007, wide receiver Torry Holt pointed
            out. "You would think if you finish up strong, things would carry over into the
            following year," he said.

            Added Linehan: "I think it's very good momentum for not just the next season,
            but your offseason....
            -12-30-2006, 04:41 AM
          • RamWraith
            Smith Takes Long Road to St. Louis
            by RamWraith
            Saturday, May 12, 2007

            By Nick Wagoner
            Senior Writer

            By now, almost everybody knows the incredible story of the No. 13 that came to camp with the Rams as a long shot and left as a legend. This story isn’t about that player and the ending has yet to be written, but if it’s ending is anything close to the last one, it will be every bit as heartwarming and just as incredible.

            Throwing on the No. 13 practice jersey would seem like bad luck considering the negative connotation that goes with the number. In St. Louis, it’s a number revered for what quarterback Kurt Warner once did with it on his back.

            This weekend, at the Rams’ rookie minicamp, the next in the line of players to pull that jersey over the shoulder pads is taking aim at being the next undrafted rookie free agent makes good story.

            His name is Shaine Smith. At 6’2, 189 pounds, he cuts a lean, almost lanky shadow that lets you know immediately that he is a wide receiver. At first glance, Smith seems like normal camp fodder, a player who looks the part, but might never get past the training camp stage of the NFL offseason.

            But Smith’s journey to St. Louis has been anything but normal. Some would call it arduous, others might say difficult and some might not believe you if you told them.

            “I have come a long way from where I have been and I tell ya, it’s hard to say I am in a Rams uniform right now, it’s hard to fathom,” Smith said. “But I worked hard and I always believed and dreamed I would be able to do this.”

            Smith had a relatively normal upbringing in San Diego. Although his parents had separated when he was young and his family didn’t have a whole lot of money, Smith was able to make his way through school while excelling on the football field.

            Before he could make the next step to college football, though, things began to unravel around him. In 2000, Smith’s mother, Lorraine Taylor, lost her job working at an insurance company in San Diego.

            Without that source of income, she was no longer able to pay the rent and provide for Smith and his younger half-brother, Trevor. For the next two months that trio began bouncing around San Diego with no place to call home.

            They stayed in hotels when Taylor could afford it, but set up in Taylor’s Honda Civic just as often. Three people in a tiny, four-door car was hardly the ideal living situation.

            When Matthew Smith, Shaine’s father, heard about the situation, he set out to find a way to help his son. The only problem was Shaine was on the other side of the country. Matthew Smith lived in Queens, N.Y., and fought to get Shaine to join him.

            Smith resisted, opting to live with his football coach and some family friends for two months before finally relenting and moving to be with his father. It was the middle of Smith’s junior season when he caved...
            -05-12-2007, 07:13 PM