April 06, 2015

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The reunion has rejuvenated Antonio Smith - not that he's ever succumbed to age or the normal wear and tear of playing in the NFL.

The Denver Broncos jumped at the chance to sign the 33-year-old defensive lineman when the rival Oakland Raiders released him in a cost-cutting move last week.

Smith said new Broncos defensive line coach Bill Kollar, under whose tutelage he thrived during their time together in Houston from 2009-13, reached out to him as soon as he became a free agent.

And Smith in turn jumped at the chance to play for Kollar and coach Gary Kubiak again, quickly signing a one-year, $2 million deal.

''When I first came to Houston we had a rocky relationship,'' Smith said of Kollar. ''And those always turn out to be some of the greatest relationships ... He will work you. He wants you to work. To me, he coaches like a player, like a football player. He's going to get on you, but at the same time you know he's in it for your best interest.''

The 12th-year pro credits Kollar for helping him become the player he is.

''You know he knows what he's talking about. Every tip and everything he's ever given me, he has always been accurate and remained true,'' Smith said. ''As I've gotten older, some of the experiences that I've had, everything that he gave me and the wisdom that he gave me, it was right on point and it helped out a lot.''

Smith said Kollar wants him to do the same thing he did in Houston, where he collected 27 of his 44 1/2 career sacks.

He said Kollar told him his role would be predicated on rushing the passer when the Broncos go into the nickel.

''He said he watched a lot of film from last year and checked me out to see if I still knew how to get to the passer,'' Smith said.

The answer was yes: Smith had three sacks and 18 tackles for loss despite being bothered by a groin injury much of the season.

Kollar plans to use a deep rotation, and Smith expects to play an integral role.

''I think that the more seasons I get, the more crafty I get in pass rush,'' Smith said. ''I'm picking up new things and I'm learning things that players and coaches around the league are using to try and stop me. I'm getting better, in my opinion.''

Smith said he's eager to team with outside pass-rushers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller to harass quarterbacks, and he trusts the Broncos have the defense to go with Peyton Manning's offense to finally win the ring that's eluded him his entire career.

''I believe wholeheartedly that we have a chance of making that last dance,'' Smith said.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL


Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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