Redskins tight end Alex Smith this week is taking part in the NFLPA's Scouting Prep program at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.*
For 15 weeks during the 2015 season, Alex Smith sat at home and wondered if he'd ever get another shot in the NFL.
The Washington Redskins on Tuesday announced the signing of 11-year veteran tight end Alex Smith. Take a look at his career through the years.
An 11-year veteran tight end, Smith hadn't played an in NFL game since Week 2 of the 2014 regular season, and although he knew he could still contribute at a high level, Smith decided it was time to start considering his career away from the field.
So Smith got the wheels in motion to take advantage of the NFLPA & The Trust's Scouting Prep program, in which NFL players are sent to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., to be introduced "to the essential knowledge and skills needed to become effective scouts" in the NFL.
And that's exactly where Smith found himself on Tuesday, taking in the North and South teams' practices and getting his feet wet as he learned the process of effectively evaluating high-level college talent.
"I knew that I wanted to stay around the game of football," Smith told Redskins.com. "Always when I was playing I always thought of myself as being a GM and what moves I would make and different decisions I would try and pull off."
Fortunately for Smith, the Redskins came calling just before their 2015 Week 15 matchup against the Buffalo Bills at FedExField. Washington, hit hard by the injury bug at the tight end position, needed a veteran who could come in early in the week and be ready to go by Sunday, and Smith – who had played for head coach Jay Gruden when he was the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator – was just that guy.
It was a revival of sorts for Smith, who signed with the team just in time to help it clinch the NFC East Division title Week 16 against the Philadelphia Eagles. He also made a 16-yard catch in the team's NFC Wild Card Round matchup against the Green Bay Packers.
But the 33-year-old is realist, and knows the clock is ticking on his playing days. Whenever he decides to step away, he wants keep his options open, and being an NFL talent evaluator seems to be right down his alley.
"It's just a program that the NFLPA offered and where we can come out and get some experience, gain a little knowledge, do some networking," he said. "And I figured that I know that the end is closer to near than further away, so [I'm] just preparing myself for the second career and whenever that time does come, hopefully I'll have a smooth transition."
As Smith learns how to evaluate the talent at this year's Senior Bowl, he certainly has his own scouting experience from which he can draw to relate to the current crop of players.
Smith, a Stanford product, had a strong showing at the 2005 Senior Bowl, including a 40-yard reception, which catapulted him up the lists of many NFL teams.
"I remember little bits and pieces, but all that stuff was a blur between the combine, Senior Bowl, pro day," Smith said with a smile. "World's spinning just trying to keep up with everything, so trying to think about it 11 years afterwards, I was like, 'I don't remember too much of it.'"
As for his current status as a player, Smith, an unrestricted-free-agent-to-be, said he's hopeful for another shot with the Redskins or any other team in need of his services in 2016.
"Now that the season's over, I have a little free time," he said. "Still gonna stay working out, stay ready, and if that call comes I'll be ready to jump on it."
*The 2016 Senior Bowl kicked off today with the start of practices for both teams. Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan is scheduled to speak at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday. *
*Redskins.com is at the 2016 Senior Bowl providing daily coverage of the week's events. Be sure to check back here for more coverage, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook, as well as on Snapchat at RedskinsSnap. *