On Wednesday, the Kansas City Chiefs conducted the offseason’s first open-media practice — and afterward, their new left tackle Donovan Smith met with reporters.
The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers blindside blocker joined the Chiefs shortly after last month’s NFL Draft — and during his initial turn at Kansas City’s podium, he appeared happy with his decision.
“It’s been great,” Smith said of his short time with the Chiefs. “Obviously, you see why they’re a championship team the way that they prepare from top to bottom — coaches to players. It’s good to see. The locker room is good.
“You obviously see the camaraderie that they have, hanging out with each other and whatnot. I’m kind of just feeling my way around and figuring some things out and whatnot — but other than that, everything’s been smooth.”
While all new players must adjust to working with quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ unpredictability, the reigning league MVP’s on-field demeanor reminds Smith of the two years he spent working with Tom Brady in Tampa.
“You just see the dedication and all the work they put in,” the veteran said of the two marquee quarterbacks. “[Mahomes is] really into it — and in tune with how he wants things done. That’s the parallels that they have. And then just the championship mentality that they have — and carry on and off the field. Those are some similarities I have seen.”
Given the structure of Smith’s contract, the Chiefs are also likely trying to figure out his health status. From 2015 through 2021, Smith was a remarkably consistent (and durable) player for the Buccaneers, never missing more than one game in any of his first seven seasons.
In 2022, however, Smith suffered an elbow injury that significantly reduced his quality of play. He missed a career-high four games as he battled the problem — and then, in the offseason, Tampa Bay released him.
The eight-year veteran is ready to put last season behind him.
“It was a little frustrating,” he said of his 2022 campaign. “I played with a lot more injuries than I should have. But you know, it’s just something that we do: we go out there [and] we sacrifice our bodies. We go out there for the greater good of the team.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t finish the way that we wanted, but it is what it is. New beginning, new journey. I’m healthy, I’m fresh — and I’m feeling real good.”
The true test of Smith’s health isn’t likely to come as the team practices in shorts this month but instead at head coach Andy Reid’s notoriously difficult training camp this summer. Smith does not doubt that he will be up to the task.
“I have heard — over the past three days — about how hard camp is,” he admitted. “But you look forward to it. It’s what you do. I’ve been through two-a-days. I’ve been through a lot of the old stuff. How hard can it be?
“Plus, on top of it, a hundred [degrees] plus in Tampa. The humidity will zap you out. I look forward to it; it’ll be fun. At the end of the day, we’re all going through it together. You know at the end of the year, it’s all going to pay off. So you look forward to it.”
Smith already enjoys working with his new teammates — and Kansas City offensive line coach Andy Heck.
“It’s real good,” he noted of the Chiefs’ offensive line room. “You can see why [they’re good]. Everybody’s talking with each other, making sure we’re all on the same page, obviously. You know, we just make sure they bring everybody up to speed.
“That’s something you look for in an offensive line room — because five minds all on the same page is what matters. Everything else — physicality, footwork and stuff — we take care of that at practice and with Coach Heck. In terms of the guys, you know, they’re great.”
One of Smith’s new teammates outside of his position group has already noticed what he is bringing to an offensive line that lost Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie in free agency.
“He’s versatile,” linebacker Nick Bolton observed in his media remarks on Wednesday. “[Smith] brings a lot of depth for our o-line. A lot of turnover in that department — we lost OB. Having guys come in and being able to produce? Both tackles have been helping our offense out learning slides [and] learning protection calls.
“We bring a lot of different looks at them [and] try to present different things from our aspect. We’re trying to be more diverse in that aspect of the game for our defense.
“I feel like he’s done a great job adjusting, being able to echo calls, and [getting] guys blocked.”
After an underwhelming conclusion to his tenure in Tampa, Smith now has an opportunity to reestablish his career. He stressed, however, that he will continue to take a team-first approach.
“I’m a selfless person,” he claimed. “Pro Bowl, all of those things? Yeah... it matters — but not really. I’m more about the championship thing, and being able to get there and get that means a lot more. And then just winning games and having fun — that’s what means the most to me.
“Outside of that, everything will take care of itself.”