ALLEN PARK, MICH. (AP) - Kevin Smith’s departure from the Detroit Lions turned out to be only a hiatus.
The 24-year-old running back is back with the Lions after being signed along with guard Leonard Davis at the season’s halfway point. Detroit drafted Smith in the third round in 2008 and he ran for nearly 1,000 yards and caught 39 passes as a rookie. The Lions let him go this past offseason, but he has earned another chance with the team.
On Tuesday, Smith was back in the same corner of his old locker room, eager to try to contribute to a team that’s very much in the race for a playoff spot. Detroit (6-2) will play at NFC North rival Chicago on Sunday after having off last week.
“I’ve been away from the game for eight weeks,” Smith said. “It humbles you. Second chances _ you don’t want to mess that up.”
Smith’s career seemed promising enough when he made an immediate contribution in his first two seasons. But late in 2009, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He came back slowly last season and played in six games, running for 51 yards in a win over Washington, then had a season-ending thumb injury in November.
“We hadn’t really planned on signing anybody, but Kevin looked so good _ ran well, moved well, was in great shape, and you know, has been a productive player for us when he’s been on the field,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “I think one of the silver linings in this was it gave his body time to heal.”
Smith is certainly familiar with the Lions, although he warned that it would be unrealistic to expect too much right away.
“I just got off the sofa like five days ago,” Smith said. “I know the offense, but it’s going to take time for me to play fast.”
Schwartz said the move to acquire Smith wasn’t a reaction to running back Jahvid Best’s health. Best has been having concussion problems and it’s not clear when he’ll be able to play again.
“Really, it was outside of any injury situation that we have,” Schwartz said. “It was because Kevin was in such great shape.”
The 33-year-old Davis has started all 155 games he has played during his NFL career, but was cut by Dallas before this season, part of a handful of moves that gave the Cowboys room under the salary cap.
Detroit doesn’t have any obvious vacancies on the offensive line, but the Lions have struggled at times to protect quarterback Matthew Stafford.
“I think every player on the team is expected to push,” Schwartz said. “Everybody that’s on our (53-man roster), plus everybody that’s on our practice squad, has to get ready to play on a Sunday. So, we expect nothing different from Leonard Davis.”
One benefit of joining the Lions is that Davis won’t have to face Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch and the rest of Detroit’s powerful defensive line in a game. The Cowboys beat the Lions 35-19 last season, but it wasn’t easy.
“I think it was probably the best front four that we played against the whole year,” the 6-foot-6, 355-pound Davis said. “Most teams, they would only have one good guy. … They were solid across the board.”
(This version CORRECTS Corrects to Davis in 2nd paragraph. Restores previous.)
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