If it weren’t for JaMarcus Russell, Jason Smith might be in contention for biggest draft bust of the 21st century.
The No. 2 overall pick in 2009 by the St. Louis Rams, Smith, a tackle from Baylor, looked to be the kind of player who fills a team’s needs at the position for a decade.
Instead, just four years later, Smith finds himself battling for his career, contending with Charles Brown and rookie Terron Armstrong at left tackle with the Saints.
Multiple concussions that caused him to miss 19 games certainly didn’t help Smith’s progress, but he was generally regarded as ill-prepared to handle the position on the NLF level. In August, the Rams traded Smith to the New York Jets where he played a backup role.
The Saints signed him as unrestricted free agent in April.
“It’s a one-day-at-a-time process,” Smith said Thursday. “I wake up every day, thank God for the day and see what it has in store for me.”
With Armstrong out for the past two days with what appeared to be a stomach issue, Smith has been taking snaps with the No. 2 unit behind Brown.
“I don’t know where I stand,” Smith said. “It’s not my job to judge that.
“I respect Charles and I respect Terron, and we’re developing a good relationship. And (right tackle) Zach (Strief) has been teaching all of us.”
One person Smith does have a strong opinion on is former Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Much-maligned by the Saints’ defensive players for last year’s historic failure on that side of the ball, Smith has nothing but good things to say about the person responsible for drafting him when he was head coach of the Rams.
“I enjoyed Spags as a person,” Smith said. “I talked to him two weeks ago and thanked him again for drafting me. I love him for who he is and for the opportunity he gave me.”
For the first time since his Memorial Day weekend arrest on drunken driving charges, wide receiver Joe Morgan spoke ot the media Thursday.
While acknowledging that he faces a possible $50,000 fine and two-game suspension, and “I made a mistake for sure,” Morgan also pointed out that he was asleep in his car and not driving at the time of the arrest.
“That was the good thing,” he said. “The motor wasn’t running and the key wasn’t even in the ignition. I was just sitting in the driver’s seat.”
Morgan said the arrest had brought him criticism from teammates.
“It’s a family-type atmosphere,” he said. “They might scold you, but they still have your back. That helped put my mind at ease a little.”
Morgan, who faces an August court date, also was charged with having no driver’s license.
The secondary was a little shorthanded Thursday with cornerback Patrick Robinson and safety Roman Harper held out with undisclosed injuries. Tight end Ben Watson who has not been on the field during the OTAs was out along with free agent cornerback Ryan Steed and Armstead.
Practice was listed as lasting until 12:45 p.m., but Saints coach Sean Payton blew the whistle about 30 minutes earlier, eliminating the day’s final period.
The players certainly weren’t complaining.
“That made it a good day,” wide receiver Marques Colston said. “We never complain about that. The coaches get paid the big bucks to make those kinds of decisions.”
The team will finish up with four more OTAs next week, starting Monday. Payton said the emphasis that day will be on the two-minute drills with Tuesday emphasizing short-yardage situations.
The final play of the day was Corey White’s interception of a Luke McCown pass, which was tipped by Ramon Humber.
“It was a great way to end camp,” said White, a second-year cornerback. “We’ve been doing it all week, though.
“The defense has been stepping up and making some plays all week. We’d been talking about making plays in the two-minute drill. I was already tired, so that was a great feeling to hear the whistle blow.”