It was just one catch in the first practice of a June minicamp. In the scheme of things, it wasn’t that big a deal. It doesn’t count in the record books. It will never be one of ESPN’s Top Ten Plays.
Nevertheless, it was a beautiful thing.
"You had a good view of it?" Brad Smith said with a smile when I asked him after this morning’s practice to talk a little bit about his impersonation of Willie Mays as he looked over his left shoulder, then his right, then let Kellen Clemens’ bomb drop right into his outstretched hands for one of those "touchdown" completions during 11-on-11 drills in the Jets’ fieldhouse.
"It was tough," Smith reflected. "Kellen was trying to give me some air to run with it. It was a great ball. And it was like catching a golfball because it got caught up in the lights and you’ve just got to stick your hands out and trust it.
"That’s what Coach Schottenheimer and Coach Ellard talk about is keeping your body between you and the defender. If you try to turn and jump, it gives the defender a chance to make a play on the ball. If you keep him on your back, you have a better chance."
But while Smith was happy to be analytical, he wasn’t going to gush.
"You have to be honest with yourself. If you think you made a good catch, then you made a good catch," he said. "I didn’t think it was a great catch. I think it was one you’ve got to make, one that you build confidence with the quarterback so you can do it again. I thought it was good, not great."
That’s really Brad Smith in a nutshell. Now in his fourth season as a Jets wideout after four seasons as Missouri’s remarkably productive quarterback, he’s not about to toot his own horn. A lot of players will say the team matters most, not the individual. But when Smith says it, it’s heartfelt.
I asked him about continuing the process of constructing his career as an NFL receiver that so far has shown flashes but no great numbers.
"I don’t think I ever fought it," he said of his transition to a new position that began back in 2006 when he was a Jets fourth-round pick. "From the beginning I just wanted to do whatever’s best for the team. Even this year, if they ask me to go back and run some snaps, I’ll run them to the best of my ability. If I run routes, I’ll run them to the best of my ability. It’s to be the best player I can be in the role I’m given."
The versatility that Smith provides remains intriguing. I love to run out this stat but I’ll throw mention it one more time: Smith was the NFL’s leading rusher last year … in terms of yards per carry for all players with at least 12 carries. He gained 113 yards on his dozen totes for a 9.4 average, led by his brilliant, weaving 36-yard keeper at Oakland.
As for the receiving part, Brad’s in a battle with Chansi Stuckey and David Clowney among others for reps alongside Jerricho Cotchery with the first offense. But Smith had a strong practice this morning, getting free on a deep post earlier in practice on which Clemens overthrew him and making several other crisp receptions.
"It’s building," Smith said. "Ever since I got here a few years ago, it’s been a grind. We’re not there yet, I’m not there yet. It won’t finish until we win."
Super Stars Come Out
This has been a big day at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center for Super Bowl III alumni. Buddy Ryan, Rex’s father who was an assistant on Weeb Ewbank’s 1968 staff, was a guest of honor at Rex’s news conference. There’s a video of Buddy’s news conference on our site and Eric Allen will have a story on him on Wednesday.
Also on hand for the early workout: RB Emerson Boozer, CB Randy Beverly, G Randy Rasmussen and DE Gerry Philbin. And showing up in between practices was C John Schmitt. I visited with Philbin and we’ll have a story up in the next few days. Also on hand for the p.m. practice, not a Super Bowl Jet but a fan favorite, was ex-TE Rocky Klever.
D and O had their moments. S Eric Smith breaks on a Mark Sanchez ball over the middle intended for TE Kareem Brown and makes the interception and return. … Smith added a pair of picks in the p.m. practice, giving him a threefer. … Fellow S Jim Leonhard has a couple of nice breakups, one on Rex Ryan throwing in defensive drills, one on Clemens throwing for Dustin Keller. … Smith wasn’t the only WR strutting his stuff. K Jay Feely, on his Twitter page, said Wallace Wright was the player of the practice. Wright had two excellent receptions in close proximity as Sanchez fitted some nice paces into some small windows.
The Jets have signed LB Craig Kobel, the former South Florida player who last played for the Eagles in 2007, and have waived LB Nate Harris and DT Brian Schaefering. … Number-go-round: TE Martrez Milner has taken over uniform number 86 after starting out as No. 45, and rookie FA tackle Tavita Thompson downshifts from 63 (which he was sharing with DL Matt Kroul) to 62.
Happy Camper in Ohio
Smith will be holding his own camp in Youngstown, Ohio, on July 10-11. Billed the Brad Smith Hometown Sportsfest, it will feature football and cheerleading camps, plus a Bowling with the NFL Stars tournament on that Friday night and an NFL vs. Faculty/Alumni Basketball Game on Saturday night.
"We’re just trying to bring the community in," said Smith, who grew up in Youngstown and attended Chaney High there. "We’re trying to have some fun."
You have to register for the Sportsfest if you want to participate in it, which you can do here.
Tags: Brad Smith, Buddy Ryan, Chansi Stuckey, David Clowney, Emerson Boozer, Gerry Philbin, John Schmitt, Randy Beverly, Rex Ryan
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