“I think the only way that I know how to do it,” the second-year pro declared before practice on Wednesday, “is to go right back down to work. Put your head down, go to work, do what the coaches tell you to, and just get right back on track.”
A year ago, the talk of the league was the strong effort by the Chiefs’ front office in overhauling the offensive line with additions like then-rookie Smith. This season, the unit’s quality of play has varied — sometimes greatly — even from series to series. Smith said that the same approach is required to address that inconsistency.
“It’s sort of like a ‘hard hat’ mentality,” he explained. “Just go right back to work. Identify the things that we didn’t do well, correct [them] and be better at it. And I think the biggest thing — and I can speak for myself — is just being consistent: consistent in my game, consistent in my approach [and] consistent on the field.”
Ultimately Smith trusts himself and his fellow offensive linemen to work through their blemishes, knowing they have already proven they have the thick skin that is required.
“It’s the grind of being a lineman in the league,” he observed. “Something you’ve got to take pride in. It’s a tough job. Not everyone’s made for it. Not everyone can handle the stress involved with it. Ultimately, that’s what the job entails; that’s what the job calls for. At the end of the day, we just have to be at our best at any moment we can.”
Smith knows that his unit will need to be at its best against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, as it will be facing elite EDGE rushers like defensive end like Nick Bosa.
“They’re well coached,” he noted. “That’s the first thing, for starters. They do a lot of different things. They play very violently [and] physically — and they play fast. When you have a group (and a combined effort) like that, it’s going to lead to great things.
“It’s going to be a tremendous challenge up front. They have a lot of really good players as well — guys like Bosa, Arik Armstead, [and] some young guys they brought in as well. They are a very talented group. It’s going to be a challenge up front.”
Since both Bosa and Armstead appeared on the initial injury report, their game status is now uncertain — but Smith isn’t taking anyone lightly. He credits Chiefs offensive line coach Andy Heck and assistant line coach Corey Matthaei for building the right mindset in the room.
“In this league, every week you have to be prepared,” he stated. “You have to be on your P’s and Q’s. You know the opponent across from you is going to be prepared. From the talent standpoint, it’s the NFL: everyone’s talented [and] everyone has the ability. It’s just the details that separate us. Coach Heck [and] Coach Matthaei do a great job of preparing us as offensive linemen for the challenges that we end up facing. At the end of the day, you’ve just got to be ready for it.”
While Smith’s football weekend ended with a frustrating loss, the former Tennessee Volunteer was a happy observer on Saturday as his alma mater defeated perennial powerhouse Alabama with a game-winning field goal as time expired. Even while preparing to face the Bills the next day, Smith was watching.
“I was watching it from the training room at the hotel,” he recalled. “I was watching the kick — and as soon as they won, I went screaming. I went crazy. That was awesome to see.”