Vikings safety Harrison Smith has just one year left on his current contract as the potential future Hall of Famer heads into his tenth season in Minnesota. Extension talks have reportedly picked up steam recently, and while there's no guarantee a deal gets done, the two sides have benefited each other quite well over the past nine years.
Continuing that relationship makes sense, one would think. Smith is still playing at an extremely high level, knows Mike Zimmer's scheme better than just about anyone, and is a key leader on what looks like a very strong defense — at least on paper — heading into the 2021 campaign. It's rare in professional sports these days, but Smith seems like someone who might just wind up playing his entire career for the franchise that drafted him.
At least for now, Smith thinks he'll retire as a Viking. He was asked that very question when he was interviewed on the latest episode of the All Things Covered podcast, hosted by his new teammate Patrick Peterson and retired cornerback Bryant McFadden.
"Yeah," Smith said. "I mean I don’t know what happens at the end of careers. I was listening to, it might’ve been the [episode] with Champ [Bailey], Pat Pete was saying at that ten-year mark, sometimes things change. I don’t plan on that happening, but the NFL is the NFL. It’s always wild. But I’ll always consider myself a Viking no matter what."
It's interesting because Peterson left the Cardinals this offseason after ten years, joining the Vikings in free agency. The difference is that Peterson, at least for the past two seasons, wasn't quite living up to his big contract. His play slipped a little, and while the Vikings are confident he can bounce back in a new scheme, it's not hard to see why Arizona was comfortable moving on.
That hasn't happened to Smith. Even at 31 years old last year, he recorded five interceptions and looked like his usual self despite playing on a defense that was sorely lacking talent and experience. He could easily remain one of the game's best safeties for another three or four seasons because of how smart he is. Smith is incredibly valuable to the Vikings as a do-it-all playmaker who must always be taken into account by opposing offenses.
With all of that in mind, an extension for Smith prior to this season would seem to make a lot of sense for both parties. And if that happens, who knows if he'll ever put on a different team's jersey during his NFL career?
The entire episode with Smith is worth a watch (on YouTube) or listen (I believe it's available wherever you get your podcasts). He talks about his football journey from Knoxville to Notre Dame to Minnesota, some of the team's past playoff games, playing for Zimmer, and a whole lot more.
Here are two other quotes from Smith that stood out to me.
On if his quiet demeanor contributes to his lack of recognition:
“Realistically, as far as recognition goes, I think it does hurt a little bit not being a little more outspoken, a little flashier, celebrating a little more. I’ve always played better when I make a play — and obviously you want to get excited about it, it helps the team out, gets the momentum going — but move to the next thing. One play’s not going to cut it, one game’s not going to cut it. It’s a whole season, it’s a whole career. So much goes into it, it’s hard for me to waste some of my effort celebrating, as funny as that sounds."
On what the Vikings need to do to get over the hump:
“You can always work out harder, you can always work on schemes. We’ve always had a really good locker room, the chemistry’s always been great. That’s kind of just a tribute to the front office and how they select guys, bring guys in. To me, it’s not necessarily tangible, but the confidence and positivity, I think, are real things that matter. And they matter when the games are win or go home. Things are going to go bad, you’re going to have a tough series, you’re going to have a tough game, but if you don’t blink when those things happen, you trust what the team is and what the coaches bring to the table and what we all bring together, that’s how teams win. In my opinion, that’s how Tom Brady has won. I think he just permeates confidence throughout the entire locker room, throughout the organization, and it rubs off on people. And they know when it comes down to it, they’re going to make one more play. That’s kind of the mindset I think we have to have to make that one more play. No matter who makes it, offense, defense, whatever, that’s the only way to win in those times. Everybody’s just about as good, everybody’s got great players, but who’s going to do it when it matters? I think that’s up to us vets to start ingraining it into the group and into the organization."
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