We haven't heard much from Antonio Smith since the day the Raiders signed him as a free agent back in March. That's mainly because before he could enter his first practice, he was injured. He suffered a sports hernia back in May that required surgery and was out all of off-season practices because of it.
This isn't a situation where the Raiders signed an injury prone player or a guy whose body is starting to break down. He hasn't missed a game in eight years. He is the very picture of durability.
Even still, he is 33-years-old and in NFL time, that's considered over the hill. With that, any injury is written off as a sign of impending retirement. This one is barely a blip on the radar and the timing helped things too.
"He's healthy," Dennis Allen said of Smith. "I think obviously he's still working to get his football legs under him a little bit but I'm excited about the possibilities of what he can bring to this defense. I think he's a good player, he's been a good player in this league for a long time, and he's played on some really good defenses, so he understands what it takes to be a championship level defense."
The common theme in the criticisms of the Raiders acquisitions this off-season has been their post 30-year status and the favorite joke is that the Raiders set out to put together the 2009 Pro Bowl team. There is some truth to that but along with these former Pro Bowlers and Super Bowl winners comes a swagger that only comes through success.
Of these experienced veterans, Antonio Smith may have the least amount of success. But what he adds to the team is a swagger they have no right to currently but aspire to.
"Man, they can criticize all they want, but (Justin) Tuck, me, and [Lamarr Woodley] outstack probably 80 to 90 percent of the younger players who they pubbing up," said Smith. So, as long as we keep producing, age don't mean nothing. If I can still disrupt and help my team to make plays then I don't care how old they say I am. Michael Strahan did it for almost 15 years I think. And still was better than most of the rookie stars that was coming in at his time. So, age don't mean nothing. Wisdom is a lot better than the young legs sometimes. . . I'm a dog all day long. On one leg I'm a disruptor."
Outside of the age question with Smith, the only other possible question as for his abilities this season are whether he can successfully switch from 3-4 defensive end to 4-3 defensive tackle. As he explains it, this is simply not an issue.
"No transition," Smith added. "I was a three technique there and I'm a three technique here. They call it a different thing as far as a 3-4 they call it an end but you're still at a three technique which is a tackle and when you get a 4-3 they just call it a tackle. It's a good thing for me because I'm playing the same thing I've always played. Minus a couple double teams here and there."
Aside from his pass rush abilities, he also brings with him his character, which is infectious. His nickname is "The Ninja Assassin" and in Houston, he's been coming out of the tunnel onto the field with a ‘ninja' mask on. When asked about his persona, his response was classic:
"He is I and I am him."
He is on the right team for characters. Not only were the Raiders in their glory days known for their eccentric personalities, but Raiders fans are famous for their costumes. The fanbase has already made an impression on Smith.
"Houston, they wasn't as extreme (as Raiders fans). There were some good fans down there, I can't lie, they really supported but I aint never seen nothing like some of the fans I see here in Oakland. I mean, they come for a show. They come all out for they're team. What person wouldn't want to play for fans that do that? That love you that much, a city that's behind you that much."
Antonio Smith plans on playing. He plans on putting on a show. And he expects his swagger is contagious and the Raiders can ride their confidence to playing some good football.
"Man, we got a heck of a defense. We got something special here, but whenever you have something special, you always gotta have that glue to keep it together. And that's a mindframe that you gotta build in camp where they gotta learn who we are and trust us, we gotta learn who they is and trust them, and once you build that bond as a brother you get that trust going, that's when you build something special."