Entering his second season with the Cincinnati Bengals, safety Derron Smith felt a little bit of a comfort zone as training camp started Thursday.
That’s understandable considering the former Fresno State star knows most of the players and coaches on the team.
That wasn’t the case when he entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick in 2015. Everybody on the team was new to him, and they looked at him the same way.
This time around, there is a lot of familiarity.
Go out there and have fun.
Cincinnati Bengals safety Derron Smith
“I know what to expect,” Smith said. “I know a lot of guys, knowing the coaching staff. It will be a lot more comfortable and go out there and have fun.”
Smith saw his first action on special teams (no tackles) when the Bengals defeated the Oakland Raiders 33-13 in the season opener at the Coliseum. He played in all 16 games, recording four tackles to help the Bengals tie a franchise record with 12 wins during the regular season. He finished the season mostly playing on special teams, including the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Bengals veterans reported to training camp last week and Smith said his plan is to continue “to make progress” on last season.
“Have more impact on special teams,” he said. “Just try to get more on the field on defense and help the team any way I can.”
Smith was a two-year team captain at Fresno State, playing in 56 career games with 44 starts, including 40 consecutive to close his career despite a sports hernia during his senior season, when he was second on the team with 93 tackles. He intercepted 15 passes as a Bulldog to tie for the fifth most in school history, and he ranks sixth with 304 career tackles.
It was obviously different in the NFL for Smith and he found out first-hand how difficult it can get.
“Just how much mental preparation is put in by everybody in all aspects of the game: Offense, defense and special teams,” he said. “There’s so much game-planning and little things inside the game that the outside (world) doesn’t have any idea what’s going on.”
Reflecting on the 2015 season, Smith said the toughest stadiums to play at were Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver.
Smith said he learned his first season, the constant learning of the playbook.
“Coaches don’t come and go; players come and go,” he said. “You have to adapt, and if you don’t pay attention, it’s going to be tough for you in the league.”
IMPORTANT UPCOMING NFL DATES
- Aug. 4-7: Hall of Fame Weekend, Canton, Ohio
- Aug. 7: Hall of Fame Game, Green Bay Packers vs. Indianapolis Colts, Canton, Ohio
- Aug. 9: Deadline for players under contract to report to their clubs to earn an accrued season for free agency
- Aug. 9: If a drafted rookie has not signed with his club by this date, he cannot be traded to any other club in 2016, and may sign a player contract only with the drafting club until the day of the draft in the 2017 League Year
- Aug. 11-14: First preseason weekend
- Aug. 18-20: Second preseason weekend
- Aug. 25-28: Third preseason weekend
- Aug. 30: Prior to 1 p.m. PST, clubs must reduce their rosters to a maximum of 75 players on the active list
- Sept. 1: Final preseason games
- Sept. 3: Prior to 1 p.m. PST, clubs must reduce rosters to a maximum of 53 players on the active/inactive list
- Sept 8, 11-12: Regular season opens
- Oct. 2: NFL International Series, Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, London
- Oct. 18-19: Fall league meeting, Houston
- Oct. 23: NFL International Series, New York Giants vs. Los Angeles Rams, London
- Oct. 30: NFL International Series, Washington Redskins vs. Cincinnati Bengals, London
- Nov. 1: All trading ends for 2016 at 1 p.m. PST
- Nov. 21: NFL International Series, Houston Texans vs. Oakland Raiders, Mexico City
- Jan. 1: Week 17
- Jan. 7-8: Wild card playoffs
- Jan. 14-15: Divisional playoffs
- Jan. 22: AFC and NFC championship games
- Jan. 29: NFL Pro Bowl, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
- Feb. 5: Super Bowl LI, NRG Stadium, Houston