- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

ASHBURN — When Alex Smith got the call from Jay Gruden, he had just one question.

“What took you so long?” Smith joked.

The 11-year veteran tight end last played for Gruden when he was the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013. On Tuesday, the Washington Redskins signed Smith after Derek Carrier tore his right ACL and MCL against the Chicago Bears.

“It was a very frustrating process,” Smith said. “I saw all the injuries happen all across the league. It happens every year. You’re just waiting for a chance and fortunately I got one here. I couldn’t ask for a better situation. I know I said I was frustrated at home, but being in this situation now with a team that’s tied for first place, ready to go to the playoffs. If I can step in and help, I’m more than willing to do so.”

Smith, who had a brief nine-day stint with the New Orleans Saints in August, thought maybe he’d get a chance with the Redskins after season-ending injuries to tight ends Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen in the preseason. Instead, the Redskins acquired Carrier, who played nearly 50 percent of the team’s offensive snaps as the primary blocker end in multiple-tight end sets.

When Carrier was not on the field, the Redskins relied on offensive tackles Tom Compton and Ty Nsekhe in jumbo packages. Without Carrier on the field, the Redskins lost an eligible receiver and a degree of versatility in their two-tight end sets.

“I know we’ve had to have some extra linemen in there,” Smith said. “While it creates some advantages in the running game, it limits us in the pass a little bit so I’m able to step in and aid in that process any, that’s what I’d love to do.”

Smith only played two games last season with the Bengals because of a torn left biceps. In 2013, he played all 16 games when Gruden was the offensive coordinator, something that will help get him ready as soon as possible.

Gruden was also an offensive assistant in Tampa Bay when Smith played with the Buccaneers from 2005-08. Smith has also played for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008 and the Cleveland Browns from 2010 to 2012.

“He stepped right in here and knows all the terminology already,” Gruden said. “We needed somebody fast. He’s a guy that can play multiple positions for us already — that’s the main reason. He’s big and can handle the in-line blocking, catch a ball and do some good things. What we’re asking him to do — Jordan [Reed] is our tight end, we still have Tom Compton with the ability to line up in the big stuff — and then he’ll be part of the offense also a little bit.”

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