Kansas City Chiefs

Sean Smith looks ready for star turn with Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith covered Denver wide receiver Cody Latimer during a game last season.
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith covered Denver wide receiver Cody Latimer during a game last season. The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jeremy Maclin already had a head of steam, eating up yards in bunches, when he smoothly, sharply, broke to the middle of the field at a 45-degree angle.

This was last week during the third practice of the Chiefs’ organized team activities. Maclin was running a post route, he had a step on the cornerback, and quarterback Alex Smith lofted the ball. One couldn’t help but think it was exactly the kind of scenario the team’s front office was dreaming of when it signed Maclin to a five-year, $55 million contract this offseason.

There was a problem, however — one big, 6-foot-3 problem. Sean Smith, the Chiefs’ lanky No. 1 cover man, was the cornerback matched up on Maclin, and he can track the ball, too. He turned on the jets, beat Maclin to the spot down the field, and plucked the ball out of the air.

Pick six.

“I’m fast,” Smith said with a laugh on Tuesday. “I’m very fast.”

And shortly after he hauled in the pass, Smith looked in Maclin’s direction — a bit of flair — before turning upfield.

“I was looking back just to make sure he wasn’t there to try to strip it out my hands,” said Smith, who flipped the ball to receivers coach David Culley after the return. “That’s all I was doing.”

It was just one of many plays Smith has made in OTAs. He looks as fluid as ever — he hauled in another interception Tuesday — and he’s doing it all with a smile.

On the field, he can constantly being seen laughing and yapping with receivers, engaged in banter that also extends to the Chiefs’ starting quarterback off the field.

“A lot of times, I’m kind of on Alex in the locker room to kind of force him to throw it over there so I can get these opportunities,” Smith said with a laugh. “It’s fun being out here with the guys, making plays. We’ve definitely been preaching turnovers all offseason.”

The latter is not a surprise. Although the Chiefs finished second in the NFL in pass defense last season, they only made six interceptions, tied for last in the NFL with Jacksonville and the New York Jets — two teams who went a combined 7-25 in 2014.

On an individual level, however, Smith had a strong season, finishing with one interception and a team-high 18 pass deflections while earning a Pro Football Focus grade of plus-17 — fifth-best in the league for a cornerback.

“I hate to say that I’m picking up where I left off, because I look at us as a team, as a unit, and we didn’t really get to where we need to be as a secondary,” Smith said. “We were No. 2 in pass defense but we weren’t No. 1, so I feel like there’s always room for improvement.

“I learned what I did right, what I did wrong from last year, and this year, I’m trying to build on it, improve in some areas and make more plays … When you just line up and play ball, everything will come to you naturally.”

Smith has put 2014 behind him in more ways than one. In March, he entered a guilty plea in Kansas City Municipal Court for driving under the influence in June 2014. He received two years probation.

“Last year, that was a long time ago,” Smith said, when asked Tuesday what he learned from the incident. “So much football has been played in between … it’s another day to be out here, be a part of the Chiefs, do my job.”

While he avoided jail time, Smith could still face discipline from the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

The league’s new drug policy stipulates that any player who “is convicted of or admits to a violation of the law” relating to the use of alcohol is subject to suspension without pay for two regular-season games.

The policy also allows for a harsher suspension in the case of a number of “aggravating circumstances,” including property damage. Under the previous policy, first-time DUI offenders received no penalty.

When asked Tuesday if he’s expecting a suspension, Smith made it clear that’s above his pay grade.

“I don’t know — I have no control over that,” Smith said. “That’s like what do I expect with the weather tomorrow. I have no idea. I just wake up, play the hand I’m dealt and keep it rolling.”

Smith, who turns 28 in July, will approach this upcoming season — a contract year — with a similar mindset as he finishes out the three-year, $16.5 million deal he signed before the 2013 season.

“That doesn’t change (anything) at all,” Smith said, when asked how he will approach this year.

“I feel amazing, like a champion. I’m healthy, I’m blessed to be on this team.”

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