Eight years after the last time he was a full-time starter, Geno Smith is back. At least for now. He’s the starter to start the season for the Seahawks, the winner of a competition that coach Pete Carroll has said isn’t over.
Still, Smith will start the Week One game. Which also happens to mark the return of Russell Wilson to Seattle.
“I’m extremely excited,” Smith told reporters on Friday. “I really can’t wait. I’m extremely excited for the opportunity, but mainly just for all the guys. For all of us to be out there together and to get our season started. It’s extremely exciting. I know everyone here is excited and personally, for me, I don’t feel any type of vindication or anything like that. It’s more so just preparing and doing the same thing I’ve always done. [I’m] not making it more than what it is.”
However it goes, Smith has come a long way from the jawbreaking punch thrown by former Jets linebacker I.K. Enemkpali in 2015, which essentially ended Smith’s tenure as the starter in New York.
“I’m in my 30s now,” Smith said regarding how he has changed since he was last a starter. “I was 23, 24 years old back then. The difference now is my focus on maintaining the football, making sure I’m protecting the football. Back then when I was on the Jets, I felt like I would have a good game and a not-so-good game. It was very inconsistent, and I think I was able to find some type of consistency in my game and I think that started with my feet, my base in the pocket. Obviously, getting stronger just over the course of my career and just growing as a man. And then just protecting the football. I’ve seen a bunch of football. I know what I’m looking at. I’m the veteran guy in the room now so I’m not just the young kid that I was when I first got into the league.”
Smith inherits the job from Russell Wilson, after two years of serving as his backup.
“My time here with Russ was awesome,” Smith said. “I really got to know him a lot. I got to know his family. He got to know mine. And one thing I would say I took from him is just his professionalism, the way he approached every single day, his competitive fire. You know just the type of person he is on and off the field. I mean there is a lot of outstanding things you can say about him. I really appreciated the time we spent together competing. We competed a bunch. You know whether it was in the classroom, weightroom, on the field, and I think that made me better. And so just being around him and knowing the type of guy he is, the way he prepares, I learned a lot from that.”
Smith said he didn’t take any time to reflect on becoming a starter again.
“There was no celebration or anything like that,” Smith said. “I went to the weight room the next day if I was going to do it anyway. And that’s just my mentality. I’m not star struck or anything by this opportunity. I’ve been working my butt off and I think that the work is more important than all of the reflection and all of that type of stuff. It’s about taking care of business. And so obviously I’m thankful and grateful that I know I’ve been working for, and I know there’s more work to be done.”
Smith had work to do last year after Wilson suffered a finger injury on a Thursday night against the Rams. By the end of the game, the crowd was chanting Smith’s name. During Wilson’s multi-week absence, Smith played well.
Now, he gets to play against Wilson.
“You can’t block that out, that would be a little naive to say that,” Smith said of Wilson’s looming return. “I do understand everything that is going on around us. Russell was the man here for a while and I know there will be emotions on both sides, but I’m not caught up in that. I’m just focused on taking care of business.”
We’ll find out in three nights whether Smith can take care of business.