Anthony Smith never wanted to leave Green Bay.
About 14 months later, Smith is back with the Packers.
Smith, who was scheduled to make his third consecutive start at safety for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday night, instead was at Lambeau Field on Monday afternoon getting reacquainted with some of his old friends. Smith was acquired for a conditional seventh-round draft pick shortly after Sunday’s overtime loss against Miami.
“I’m happy, man, excited,” Smith told reporters in the Packers’ locker room on Monday. “I know this is a winning organization, so I know what to expect. I’m just here to help.”
With the trade deadline on Tuesday, the move to get Smith was surprising considering veteran safety Atari Bigby will begin practicing on Wednesday after spending the first six weeks on the physically unable to perform list. Veteran Charlie Peprah, who replaced injured rookie Morgan Burnett for the last two games, had a solid performance against the Dolphins.
Subscribers can get an Anthony Smith scouting report from a Jaguars beat writer.
“I think when Anthony was here, he was a physical player,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “I thought he was a good tackler. He had a physical presence to him. I think he had a pretty good feel, liked the defense, was an active guy. I think he’s a guy that not only will have a chance to help us on the defense but I think he ought to be a good special teams player. He’s an experienced guy that you know will throw his body around and I think will bring a physical presence to both the defense and special teams.”
After the Steelers chose not to give Smith a restricted free agent tender, the Packers signed Smith in March 2009. Smith had an impactful training camp and preseason, with several big plays made by Smith and allowed by Smith. In a surprise, he was released in favor of 2007 third-round pick Aaron Rouse, who lasted just two weeks before he was released. Smith’s release stunned his teammates in the secondary.
“That meant a lot, coming from a lot of respectable guys, guys that know the game and know what kind of player I am. It was very supportive of them,” said Smith, who continued following the Packers while with the Jaguars.
Smith landed in St. Louis and played in two games before he was released by the Rams. The Packers put in a waiver claim but Jacksonville got Smith based on the teams’ records. He started two games for the Jaguars last year, with two interceptions, and had started all three of his games this season, with an interception against Peyton Manning.
“I coach. I don’t make personnel decisions,” said safeties coach Darren Perry, who also was Smith’s position coach in Pittsburgh. “They ask for my input, I give it, and after that I’m out of the loop in terms of who stays, who goes. We felt real good about (Smith) coming in and giving us a guy who had experience in what we were doing scheme-wise, terminology-wise, communication-wise — all those things you look for at the safety position. When you’ve got a guy that’s got experience in what you’re doing, he becomes somewhat of a coach on the field and he can help ease that transition. And that’s kind of what he did when he was with us.”
The Packers had lost Burnett and Derrick Martin to season-ending injuries have now fortified the position by trading for Smith and getting back Bigby. Because Smith knows the defense, he can probably help the defense and special teams beginning Sunday night against Minnesota.
“I know how those guys play, I don’t have to come in guessing and trying to figure them out,” Smith said.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.