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June 13, 2017

Marcus Smith on his decision to skip Eagles OTAs, what he did instead, and if he can make the team

Three seasons removed from being the 26th-overall pick in the NFL Draft, defensive end Marcus Smith is anything but a lock to be on the Eagles' 53-man roster at the end of training camp later this summer. That's part of the reason many were surprised the Louisville product wasn't at OTAs the last three weeks.

In fact, the prevailing wisdom suggests that the Birds will move on from Smith, who returned this week for mandatory minicamp after he struggled to produce on the field. Here's what our own Jimmy Kempski wrote when Smith's absence from the voluntary portion of the team's offseason program was first noticed:

In his three years after the Philadelphia Eagles made him their first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Marcus Smith has 23 tackles, four sacks, and a whole lot of disappointed and/or annoyed Eagles fans.

Smith's base salary this season is $889,515, with a roster bonus of $594,000 coming on the third day of training camp. If the Eagles were to release Smith prior to the third day of camp, they would save $1,483,515. That will be a no-brainer decision, especially now that Smith is a third-string defensive end, behind Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Vinny Curry, and rookie Derek Barnett.

The only thing that could really save Smith from being cut prior to the third day of camp would be standout performances in OTAs and minicamps.

But upon his arrival to the NovaCare Complex for the next phase of the offseason, Smith didn't seem all to concerned with how his absence may impact his standing on the team.

Here's a transcript from his back-and-forth with reporters following Tuesday's practice:

What went into the decision to skip OTAs?

MARCUS SMITH: It was my decision, and my agent’s decision. We just decided not to come. I trained at home.

Why did you decide to skip OTAs?

SMITH: There wasn’t a reason. It was voluntary, and I just stayed at home and trained.

Do you feel like you missed anything?

SMITH: No. I don’t feel like I missed anything. I knew the playbook, knew the playbook well. I think when I went home, I was just working on my pass rush, working on stuff that I would be working on here.

How was it beneficial for you not to be here?

SMITH: I think the benefit is just being by yourself training, being with a coach and getting one-on-one training. I did want to be here, as far as being with my teammates, I just decided to stay home. It was just a decision that I made not regarding to the coaches, not regarding to the GM or my teammates. It was just my decision.

Have you or your agent asked them to release you now?

SMITH: No. I still want to make this team. I still want to be a part of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Do you think you have a good chance to make the team?

SMITH: Yes, I do.

What was your reaction when they drafted Derek [Barnett] and signed Chris Long, did that kind of get your attention?

SMITH: Well, I was happy because, first of all, Chris Long is a great pass rusher. He’s been in the league, this is going on his 10th year. And I always knew Derek Barnett because we trained with the same guy, Chuck Smith, so I was happy that they drafted him.

Are you surprised that your absence generated so much interest on the outside looking in?

SMITH: I wouldn’t say surprised. I wasn’t trying to make it any bigger than it already was. I didn’t want to mess with anybody’s head or anything. It was just a decision that I made.

Do you think it affects you? Do you think coaches look at you a different way because you didn’t go to the voluntary practices?

SMITH: No, I was still talking to my coaches and I don’t think it affected them any way. Me and my coach, we still talk and the assistant coaches, we still talk, so I don’t think it affected our relationship at all.

Do you expect to be on the team this year?

SMITH: Yeah. I’m expecting to be on the team. I’m expecting to play. I’m expecting to have a great year.

Who first brought up the idea of not coming, you or your agent?

SMITH: First of all, it was just my decision. I mean, you can’t really say, because I was here throughout the first and the second week. I just decided to go home and train.

When they drafted a DE and signed another, was there ever a sense of urgency to show up?

SMITH: I say, when it comes to a sense of urgency, I want to be here. I’m here now. That was voluntary, but minicamp is mandatory and I need to be here for that.

Was it disheartening to see them add those guys?

SMITH: Well, to me, you can’t look at it that way. You can’t look at it as being disheartening. You can’t look at it that way. It’s the business side of it. It’s the Eagles doing what’s best for the organization. You just have to come in and compete and play everyday, that’s all you have to do. And then love on the guys that do come in, especially the first-rounder, especially Chris Long. I’m just trying to learn from him, and I can take some things from Derek Barnett as well.

You said you were here for two weeks before deciding to go home. Was there anything that triggered that decision?

SMITH: There was nothing that triggered it; there was nothing that was going on. Just my decision, it was voluntary, so I decided not to go.

What could you do at home that you couldn’t do here?

SMITH: I got to my iPad home, so I got to watch film and see what they were doing. Got to still do the plays that I’ve always been doing, so I don’t think that I really missed anything. 

So you were getting the film of OTAs?

SMITH: Yeah, I got the film and was watching each week.

You’ve set specific goals in the past, what are they this year?

SMITH: I really got the same goals as far as stats-wise. First and foremost, I want to become a starter. To be able to get the stats I want, I have to become a starter, so that’s the first goal.

Is there part of you that says maybe I need a fresh start somewhere else?

SMITH: I really – when you say that, that’s the business side. I really don’t even try to think about that. I just try to come out here and play. You can’t really think about that. You’ve just got to come out and do what you’re supposed to do – do all the plays right, do what the coaches tell you to do and just play hard and compete.

Are you upset with the team at all?

SMITH: No. I’m not upset at all. I understand.

What was your reaction to them not picking up the fifth-year option on your contract?

SMITH: Well, I knew they weren’t going to pick it up. It’s just, I mean, it’s obvious that I haven’t really played that much in three years so it wouldn’t be smart – as a business, as an Eagles organization – to pick it up.

Where specifically were you?

SMITH: I was in Maryland.

Even though they’re voluntary, considering your standing on the team, were you concerned about how that might affect you going forward?

SMITH: No, I’m not concerned at all. I just leave it to God, keep my faith in him, and I just came up here for minicamp, doing what I’m doing.

Where do you see your future here?

SMITH: Yes, I see myself having a future here. That’s why I’m here in minicamp, that’s why I want to be here. I’m here with my teammates, that’s it.

You’re owed a roster bonus on the third day of training camp, so wouldn’t it take sense to show up to OTAs to show to the team–

SMITH: I don’t deal with the money side. I don’t deal with that, I just come to play, that’s all I do. So I don’t know anything about that.

What coach were you working with in those one-on-one sessions?

SMITH: I always work with Chuck Smith.

What’s your weight at?

SMITH: 255 [pounds].

What’s a normal playing weight for you?

SMITH: 255.

Now that you are here, what can you pull out of this experience and what do you need to do to make this roster?

SMITH: Well first off, when I came back everything was the same. I was still watching film and still watching everything that everybody was doing. I was still doing everything I was supposed to do. So me, coming out here today, I feel like I need to put my best foot forward to be able to make the roster and make the team.

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