MIKE O'HARA

O'Hara's Friday Focus: Alphonso Smith has gone from the couch to the hot seat

Posted Oct 19, 2012

"It could be a lucky bounce for Smith – and for the Lions - if he produces at the level he did when he first joined the Lions in 2010 in a trade with the Broncos."

Alphonso Smith has gone from the couch to the hot seat – from watching football on Sunday to preparing to playing cornerback for the Lions on Monday night in Chicago.

He prefers the hot seat and the heat of competition to spending game day in a comfortable seat in front of the television.

Footballs take strange bounces, and so do football players.

The latest change in direction has brought Smith back to the Lions, who let him go in the last wave of cuts on Aug. 31 after two seasons with them and a rookie year in Denver.

It could be a lucky bounce for Smith – and for the Lions - if he produces at the level he did when he first joined the Lions in 2010 in a trade with the Broncos.

Smith was re-signed to fill a void created by a string of injuries that has ravaged the secondary.

From opening day through last week’s win at Philadelphia, cornerbacks in particular have gone down on a weekly basis. It’s been like a truck carrying a load of television sets getting rear-ended by a semi. The result: the Lions are patching broken parts with spare parts.

Last week at Philadelphia, Jacob Lacey sustained a concussion, and rookie Bill Bentley reinjured a shoulder that caused him to miss a previous start.

Previously, Chris Houston missed the first two games with a shoulder injury, Drayton Florence went out for an extended period with a broken arm, and Louis Delmas missed the first four games recovering from knee surgery.

Coach Jim Schwartz has said often that teams don’t prepare for “if” players get injured but “when” they do. Injuries are inevitable, but the carnage in the secondary has carried it to the breaking point.

“You just kind of have to go play and be able to adjust to a lot of different things. I think we’ll be fine,” said Schwartz.

Smith, who was out of football since being released, came up from his home in Winston Salem, N.C. on Wednesday for a workout when the call went out for help.

He spent the night in Detroit, signed a contract Thursday morning and was on the practice field at 11 a.m.

Whether he plays or starts against Chicago likely depends on the health of Lacey and Bentley.

Rookie Jonte Green played well in relief in Philadelphia and could start at Chicago.

Smith isn’t focusing on his status.

“The only thing I knew was come up here, sign, catch up to speed and get out there and practice,” Smith said as he sat in front of his locker and spoke to reporters after Thursday’s practice.

The Lions’ spirited play in last week’s overtime win at Philadelphia showed an increased sense of urgency. They cannot afford a weak link at any position against the Bears.

The Bears are in first place alone in the NFC North with a 4-1 record. The Lions are 2-3 and can tighten the race – for themselves and everyone else - with a win. A loss would put them three games back with 10 to play.

At the very least, Smith provides temporary insurance at cornerback.

The NFL protocol involving concussions makes Lacey’s availability more problematical than Bentley’s.

Smith can help the Lions if he plays close to his level in 2010 after the trade from Denver.

He was a starter by Game 2 and intercepted five passes in his first six games, with one touchdown return.

He wound up playing 12 games, with 10 starts, and finished with the five picks. That was the high point of his stay in Detroit. He started one game in 2011 and had three picks, and was cut at the end of camp this year.

“I wasn’t bitter at all,” he said about being cut. “Understanding is the best thing in the world. To us in this locker room, it’s a sport. To others it’s a business. At the end of the day, the Detroit Lions have to do the best thing for the Detroit Lions.

“The evil side of this profession is, it can hand like that,” he added, snapping his fingers. “Everyone knows it can end. Either you’re released or you’re hurt.”