ALAMEDA, Calif. — For Oakland Raiders cornerback Sean Smith, a matchup against his former team is just business and not anything personal even if the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t make enough of an effort to keep him this offseason.
“It’s a division game, an AFC game, so it has some importance to it, but there’s nothing else special for me,” Smith said.
Smith has gone through this dance before when he faced his original team, Miami, in his second season with the Chiefs in 2014. Smith said he looks forward to checking in on some old friends before the game but is not looking to settle any old grudges.
As much as Smith may try to downplay the significance of Sunday’s game in Oakland, his defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. knows that emotions will play a role because he has been through this situation as a player before.
“You try to say every game is the same, but it’s not,” Norton said. “You have a lot of friends on the other teams and sometimes there’s good blood and sometimes there’s bad blood with the management. So, you always want to let them know what they’re missing. I’m not on your team and this is what you’re missing. You always try to take it to another level when you play your former team.”
Smith left Kansas City to join the Raiders this offseason when he signed a four-year deal worth $38 million with $15 million fully guaranteed. His transition to Oakland hasn’t been particularly smooth. He was pulled from the season opener after allowing a 98-yard touchdown catch to Brandin Cooks and had problems again the following week against Atlanta.
But after allowing 10 catches on 12 targets the first two weeks, Smith has been much better of late by allowing just nine catches in 19 targets the past three games, according to Sportradar.
“I started out kind of slow,” Smith said. “I had to make some adjustments, some tweaks here and there. It was nothing serious, nothing that couldn’t be fixed. Like I said, we’re on a nice little roll here, we’re playing pretty good.”
Smith also has two interceptions in that span, matching his high for a season as his work on improving his hands has paid dividends already this season for the Raiders.
After dropping a couple of potential interceptions in the preseason, Smith has managed to hold onto the ball better when he has gotten the chance in real games.
“Early on we knew he had good instincts, we knew he had good knowledge but he always dropped the ball,” Norton said. “The ball would come to him and he would drop it all of the time, so we put him on the jugs machine and we threw the ball to him often and we talked to him about how to catch and we have certain drills set up for him.”
Now he will get to match up against players he’s used to facing in practice like Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith and receiver Jeremy Maclin. Sean Smith said he used to treat practices against the Chiefs offense just like a game and now he will actually get to do it for real.
“It always makes for an interesting matchup,” Alex Smith said. “You know each other well. You went against him a lot in all of OTAs and camp and things like that. It’ll be good. He’s obviously a really, really good player. It’ll be a good matchup.”
NOTES: RB Latavius Murray (toe), RT Menelik Watson (calf) and OL Vadal Alexander (ankle) did not practice.