Eight years after he last worked full time, Jeno Smith is back. At least for now. It’s the start of the season with the Seahawks, winners of a competition that coach Pete Carroll said isn’t over yet.
However, Smith will start the first week’s game. Which also happens on the occasion of a comeback Russell Wilson to Seattle.
“I’m really excited,” Smith told reporters Friday. “I really can’t wait. I’m so excited for this opportunity, but mainly for all the players just. Let’s all be together and start our season. It’s so exciting. I know everyone here is excited and personally, for me, I don’t feel any kind of justification or anything.” It’s more than just preparing and doing the same thing I’ve always done. [I’m] Don’t make it more than it is.”
However, Smith did come a long way from a jaw-dropping punch delivered by former Jets linebacker IK Enemkpali in 2015, which essentially ended Smith’s stint as a rookie in New York.
“I am now in my thirties,” Smith said regarding how he has changed since his last start. “I was 23, 24 at the time. The difference now is my focus on keeping football, making sure I protect football. At the time when I was at the Jets, I felt like I was going to have a good game and a not so good game. It was very inconsistent. And I think I’ve been able to find some kind of consistency in my game and I think that started with my feet, my base in my pocket. Obviously, getting stronger during my career and getting bigger as a man. And then only football protection. I’ve seen a bunch of soccer. I know What I’m looking at. I’m the veteran guy in the room now, so I’m not just the little kid I was when I first got into the league.”
Smith inherited the job from Russell Wilson, after two years working as his assistant.
“The time I had here with Ross was amazing,” Smith said. “I got to know him really a lot. I got to know his family. He got to know mine. The only thing I can say I took from him is just his professionalism, the way he handled every single day, his competitive fire. You just know the kind of person he’s in and out of. I mean. That there are so many great things you can say about him. I really appreciate the time we spent together competing. We competed as a group. You know if it was in the classroom, or in the weight room, or on the field, I think that made me better. So Just being around him and knowing what kind of guy he is, and the way he’s grooming, I learned a lot from that.”
Smith said he didn’t take any time to think about becoming a beginner again.
“There was no celebration or anything like that,” Smith said. “I went to the weight room the next day if I was going to do it anyway. And that’s just my mentality. I’m not a star who hits anything with this opportunity. I’ve been working hard and I think work is more important than all the reflection and all that kind of stuff. It’s about nurturing Business. I am clearly grateful and thankful that I know I am working for him, and I know there is more work to be done.”
Smith had to do work last year after Wilson sustained a finger injury Thursday night against the Rams. By the end of the match, the audience was chanting Smith’s name. During Wilson’s absence for several weeks, Smith played well.
Now, he plays against Wilson.
“You can’t block that, it would be a bit naive to say that,” Smith said of Wilson’s impending comeback. “I understand everything going on around us. Russell has been the guy here for a while and I know there are going to be feelings on both sides, but I’m not into that. I’m just focused on taking care of business.”
We’ll find out in three nights if Smith can take care of business.