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Smith looks to keep starting spot

By By Richard Dark/EMG staff writer
July 27, 2003
METAIRIE, La. In his mind, it's his job to lose.
And on day one, the coach declared the same. But the reality of the situation is that former Meridian High School standout Kenny Smith faces a daunting challenge during the New Orleans Saints 2003 training camp in order to remain the starter at right defensive tackle.
Grady Jackson, who Smith took the job away from in mini-camp, did show up for the first practice of training camp despite rumors to the contrary.
He was fined after calling Haslett on Friday to tell him he would in fact not be able to make the evening's 5 p.m. deadline for player check-in due to undisclosed personal reasons.
But to the surprise of many of the nearly 3,000 fans, media and team personnel on hand Saturday, Jackson was out in the sweltering morning heat, showing up nearly 25 pounds lighter than the enormous 366 pounds he came to with at mini-camp.
His current self-admitted weight is 343. He was demoted to second string at the mini-camp and had minimal participation in drills Saturday. Still, internet reports of his retirement, he said, were premature.
Instead, he seems determined to get back his starting spot.
The coach doesn't seem to be bothered by Grady'gate. "He looks good, he has lost a lot of weight, so we are happy about that," said Haslett, who alluded to the fact that although Smith is currently listed as the starter, things could certainly change before the season opener.
What further clouds the waters surrounding the defensive line is the Friday night addition of former Tennessee Titans DT Henry Ford. As of Saturday evening's practice, Ford (6-3, 295), entering his 10th season, had not yet arrived at practice, an absence that was excused by the staff.
Smith is hoping all the hard work he has done this past offseason, won't keep him at that unknown status for long. "I've been here ever since the season ended last year working out hard to stay in shape and seize my opportunity and I'm trying to do all it takes to help this team win. It's my job to lose." Smith has also had to battle back from a February scope procedure to clean out fragments in his knee.