Smith takes nothing for granted, and he shouldn't. At the start of last season, he was at home in Florida, working out on his own, because no team wanted him.
That included the Lions, the team that drafted him in 2008, the team he led in rushing his first two seasons, and the team that didn't offer him a contract after the 2010 season, his third.
The Lions finally signed him back after eight games to add depth at running back, where injuries had decimated the position.
Smith is back this year, and he has landed on his feet – as has been the case in his brief, but winding, career. He is the Lions' No. 1 tailback for Sunday's opening game against the Rams at Ford Field.
Running back and the secondary have been focused on since the end of last season as areas that needed upgrading.
Smith doesn't seem concerned about having the microscope on his position.
"I can't tell you what type of microscope it is," he said. "Every position is expected to play well. I'm here to play, not look into the microscope.
"I'm here to play, bring my 'A' game."
There is no doubt that Smith will bring whatever he has on every play. His resilience has made an impression on his teammates.
"Obviously, you definitely respect his resolve," said backup quarterback
"He battled through injuries. Then he had one (a knee) that they had to tell him, ‘You can't play with that. You've got to get that fixed.' He wanted to keep playing then."
Smith doesn't choose to look back on last season with a sense of accomplishment for what he brought to the Lions.
"We're about to open up with week one of this year," he said. "Anything that happened last year, it was great then. Nothing has happened so far."
By any standard, last season was an overall success for the Lions' offense in every area except the running game.
The offense ranked fifth in yards per game (398.1) and fourth in points scored (474) and passing yards per game (300.9).
But the running game was 29th, at 95.2 yards per game.
There are some fundamental issues in considering the overall value of a running game, and how important it is to winning.
Based on last season's results, the answer is that it's not very important in terms of yards gained.
The Super Bowl champion Giants were last in yards per game (89.2) and the Packers, who had an NFL-best 15-1 record in the regular season, were 27th. The Patriots, who lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl, were 20th.
However, the Patriots were tied for third in rushing touchdowns with 18. The Giants were sixth with 17.
Of the top five rushing teams last season, only Houston had a winning record. Denver had the top-rated rushing offense and won the AFC with an 8-8 record.
In most cases, teams that win and go deep into the playoffs have pass-oriented offenses led by great quarterbacks – Tom Brady of the Patriots, Drew Brees of the Saints, Eli Manning of the Giants, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers and
Coach Jim Schwartz has said often that his goal is to have a productive offense, not a balanced one.
"Efficiency and production is getting first downs, gaining yards, scoring with the football," Schwartz said Wednesday. "It has nothing to do with whether you're doing it from screens, long passes, reverses, runs, power-running, traps. You don't get any style points for any of that.
"We aspire to put the football in the end zone on offense. We aspire to do what we have to do to win the game.
"We want to be a multi-dimension offense. We have a very good quarterback. We have very good receivers. We have very good running backs.
"If a team wants to tilt too heavy to stopping one of these groups, we have the ability to make them pay in another area."