DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 20: Kevin Smith #30 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a second quarter touchdown while playing the Carolina Panthers at Ford Field on November 20, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith recently stopped by the Pride of Detroit Podcast for an interview with Jerry Mallory. In the interview, Smith talked about a number of topics, including the offseason, the Lions' running back situation, injuries, Junior Seau and the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. You can check out audio of the interview below (it begins at the 1:50 mark), and a transcript of the interview can be found after the jump.
Pride of Detroit: How's it going, Kevin?
Kevin Smith: It's going real well, going real well. Thank you.
POD: I'm not sure if this is your nickname around the league or if it's something we've kind of adopted on the website. We call you K-Smooth. Is that like a league-wide thing or is that kind of a special nickname we've given you on the site? I'm not sure.
KS: A couple people have hit me on Twitter with it, and I don't mind it at all. I kind of embrace it. K-Smooth sounds pretty good to me. I run with it. Whoever wants to call me K-Smooth, I'll take it. I appreciate anybody taking the time to give me a smooth nickname like that.
POD: What is your Twitter handle, so some more people can reach you and reach out to you?
KS: My Twitter is actually @kevinsmith34, from my previous number. I have not changed it. I'm probably going to leave it like that just because that was the first number I ever had in the league and the first number I had for the Detroit Lions, so I figure it's only right that I keep it all the same, although I'm at 30 right now.
POD: Let's talk about your offseason. How's your offseason been going in terms of getting ready to play on the field, as well as maybe some exciting things that have been going on outside of football?
KS: We're almost into our fourth week of the offseason program, and it's huge. I'm excited for this team. Guys are coming in every day, early in the morning, putting in the work necessary for us to do better than we did last year. I think everybody has one goal and one mission. We're just working, putting in the ground work behind the scenes that the fans don't get to see in training camp so when we do get to training camp it looks like we're in mid-season form. I'm excited about that, but it's just a constant grind -- five days a week for nine more weeks -- and that's what it is.
Off the field, I just had an event down in Miami, where I'm from. We did an Easter event for the committee I'm from down south of Miami. It was a great turnout. We had bounce houses for the kids. We had a basketball tournament. And we paired up with Voting Rocks, Inc. just to raise awareness for the youth and let 'em know how important it is to vote. So that's what I'm doing right now.
POD: You said you're from Miami. Let me ask you a quick question. Are you a Miami Heat fan, by chance?
KS: I don't want anybody to judge me, but I am a Miami Heat fan, although I've been to four out of the last six Pistons games just to show my support since I am a Detroit guy now. But I am a Miami Heat fan.
POD: The draft was last weekend. We picked up some good players. Hopefully they'll help us. Take us back to when you were in the draft -- the whole process, waiting to get a phone call, not knowing exactly what team you will go to. I'm sure you had some conversations with Matt Millen and the Lions brass at that time. Give us your experience when you were at the NFL Draft.
KS: It was kind of nerve-wracking for me, just not knowing, not having an idea. When I was coming out in 2008, the running back class was deep. My running back class is pretty much the class of the NFL right now with Chris Johnson and Matt Forte and Jonathan Stewart and (Rashard) Mendenhall, and the list goes on. It was pretty nerve-wracking, but it was a great experience overall, and it was a blessing to get drafted and to get drafted to Detroit, going on my fifth year here. I think everybody dreams of being able to be drafted and be able to go through that experience. With all the nerves and all the negatives and positives, you still have to embrace the situation.
POD: In terms of the draft, this one that the Lions just had, there's a lot of people that thought we may address the running back situation by drafting one. We didn't, so as of now, if you look at the running back situation in Detroit, it's kind of interesting. You've got no draftees coming in. You've got Mikel Leshoure, who is coming off the Achilles injury, he has the situation with marijuana. You've got Jahvid Best, who with the concussions, even if he is healthy, is kind of looking like he's maybe not an every-down back. And then there's you, Kevin. The way I see it, Week 1 against St. Louis, there's a great chance you will be our feature back, by means of the one that will get the load of the carries. Is that something that you've thought about when you look at the running back situation in Detroit? How do you kind of view where you stand in terms of getting carries this year?
KS: That was one of the things that I didn't worry about being in free agency and obviously signing back with Detroit. I had a chance to sign with a few other teams. Detroit's my home, Detroit's my love. One of the main reasons that I came back was to play with those guys because I've been in the league going on five years, and I've been a starter in this league. I came back last year, didn't start, ended up starting the rest of the year going into the playoffs. So to me, it's not about that. I'm more excited about having one of the best backfields in the league.
I'm the oldest guy out of the group now, and my primary goal is to help everybody get better, and that's through leadership, that's through just working and letting those guys see how I work. And I'm excited for us. It's not even about who starts, if I start. What happened with Leshoure, he's a young guy, but I hang around him a lot, and he learned from his mistake. I was so excited when Jahvid got cleared from his concussions because Jahvid brings something to the table that I don't bring. I bring something that Jahvid doesn't bring. Hopefully Leshoure brings something that both of us doesn't bring. With that combination, with the receivers and the quarterbacks that we have and our O-line, we could have a winning combination. So to me, that's more important than if I start. If I start, that just means I come out of the tunnel first. To me, that's not what's important. It's definitely about us having a potent offense and us being a winning team.
POD: Let's go back to last year. You didn't start the season on the roster. You came back, were noticeably thinner, seemed to be in some of the best shape of your life. What was it like, both physically and mentally, up until the point where you got signed by the Lions? I'm sure it was quite difficult and challenging not being on an NFL team for several weeks last season.
KS: It was a mental challenge. It was kind of sort of, "Is it gonna make you or break you?" It was a blessing in disguise because although I got hurt -- I still had the nicked up ankle -- it had a chance for me and my body just to heal overall. It was frustrating not being on a team. I was healthy. I was training every day. It's frustrating. I've never been out of football in my life, and to be out of football for eight weeks and not really know why or have any answers ... I was doing everything I could to get a team to notice me, putting out YouTube clips. My whole mindset was, when I'm healthy I've been productive in this league. There were guys that weren't as productive but that were healthy that were on rosters, that teams were keeping.
Overall, it was just something you just had to keep at it. Didn't want to slack off, because you never know when you got that phone call. Right up into Week 8, when Detroit decided to give me a workout, I was grinding and busting my butt so when I got an opportunity I could have a good showing. Getting lighter and getting thinner and getting more leaner really helped me improve everything overall, and I was just excited to get another opportunity.
POD: How is that ankle? We were watching you play, and we could tell that you wanted to be out there so bad, and you tried everything you could to stay on the field those last few weeks, but there were times when you just weren't able to. And that's how injuries go. It happens to everybody in the league. How are you now health-wise, though?
KS: I've never felt better. It's funny; my trainer down in Miami, who I've been with since I've been in the league, I haven't been able to train in the offseason since my rookie year. Every year besides my rookie year I've never started training until around this time or even later. I had the ACL, I had the shoulder, I had the thumb. So that's a blessing in its own, but I've never felt better. Now that I am healthy it's important to me, and I try to tell younger guys or just even show younger guys that you can't take anything for granted. There's guys with (an attitude of), "If I get injured, I get injured." I feel like that's behind me, but to be able to take advantage of every healthy day is what I'm focused on. I'm 100 percent. I'm feeling good. Like I said, I'm taking advantage of every offseason day that we have.
POD: Let me ask you a couple of other questions related to football but not pertaining to you. The two biggest offseason stories so far this year ... We had the one that just came out (last week) with Junior Seau dying. It looks like it may be a suicide. There may be some situations going on there in terms of did he have some post-traumatic stress in terms of concussions or other things? And then you have the bounty scandal. Why don't you talk about Junior Seau first? Maybe you have some recollections of him, watching him growing up, and how concussions affect a lot of players after retirement.
KS: First off, I want to say God bless him and his family. When I first heard of it, I was just like, "Wow." When you're playing football and you're a little kid, I know in my time -- I was born in '86 -- everybody knows who Junior Seau was. He was a dynamic player. I didn't get to meet him personally because obviously he's older than me, but from what I hear he was a great player, he was a great person off the field. It's just sad. I can't really speak on it because I don't know all the details and I don't know what concussions or what not being able to play the game anymore had any effect on what happened, but just overall, I know it's sad to me and it's sad to the world and the people who cared about Junior Seau. I just hope his people keep his memory alive and that his family is blessed and is able to pull through this.
With the bounty scandal, I actually know Jonathan Vilma personally. The being suspended for the entire (year), rules are rules. When you break them, it's not at your leisure what the punishment is. I do know personally that Jonathan Vilma is still a great guy. What they had going on over there, I think that's something that only the Saints knew. But it's part of football. I did hear some of the defensive coordinator's audio. I did personally think that some of it was over the top, but in another token, I do think that is football. I think some of it's football. But I think there's just a fine line. Paying guys and trying to tear ACLs and take away how people provide food for their family is one thing, but getting guys to play hard and extra motivation, I'm a football player, so I'm all for it.
POD: Let me ask you this -- a quick follow-up. Detroit played New Orleans twice, a playoff game and a Sunday night football game. Did you notice anything going against them? You're an offensive player. Did it seem like they may have had a couple of extra cheap shots? Now, all teams are aggressive, but did they seem to have a little extra going on with them in terms of aggression or going after guys and different injuries?
KS: I really didn't notice because I expect every team to play hard on Sundays. It was hard for me, though, because I was hurt. I was trying to get myself prepared to be able to get through that game, especially the first one, coming fresh off a high ankle sprain. There was nothing out of the ordinary that stuck out to me because I know personally, playing running back, bounty program or not, there's going to be a bounty. Someone's going to try to knock your head off every play. More or less, for my position, I'm trying to hit them harder than they're gonna hit me with the ball in my hand. I don't know if we were a part of the bounty program, what the details are. Me personally, there was nothing. They knew I had a high ankle sprain; there was none of the guys under the pile twisting ankles or doing anything like that because one, I tried not to get piled up and two, I tried to get off the ground quick.