The St. Louis Rams signed former Giants receiver and USC star Steve Smith in 2012 to bolster an inexperienced and thin group of wide receivers. For Smith, it was a second chance to get his career going again after injuries ended his time in New York. Smith says he never got that chance in St. Louis.
Smith claimed during an appearance on the Damon Amendola Show that he was fully healthy in 2012, but internal politics kept him off the field.
"People don't know, but my knee actually felt great. If the Rams would've played me more, I would've shown that I felt just as good as I did (when I was with) the Giants. To be honest, I felt like I was even a little bit better. I worked so hard and my knee felt great the whole season, and I just didn't really get the opportunity to play. They had their guy. That's how that goes. It's just unfortunate I didn't really reach my full potential."
Who was that guy?
Brandon Gibson led all receivers in snaps for 2012, with 794. Chris Givens was next on the list with 641 snaps, which he parlayed into a starting gig thanks to Danny Amendola's injury that year. Among all four Rams receivers with more than 200 snaps, Givens was the only one drafted by the Fisher/Snead regime. "Their guy?"
Brian Quick got more snaps than Smith that season, 187 to 182.
To go with Smith's claim to health, he did not miss a single practice through training camp. That's a pretty big deal for a guy with his history of knee troubles. You'll also recall that Smith was the starter, along with Amendola, when the preseason started. And like everyone on the Rams roster during OTAs and training camp, he too was creating lots of BUZZ prior to the season.
Very strong buzz about WR Steve Smith here. Having another strong practice. Bradford excited to see Smith and Amendola both in slot— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) August 15, 2012
(Something to keep in mind as you read about Kenny Britt's "resurgence").
Some of that buzz was coming from his own teammates, Smith claimed.
"(General manager Les Snead) even told me (halfway) through the season, ‘We see what you're doing in practice.' The DBs were like, ‘Man, I can't believe you're not playing.' That's just how the game is sometimes. The politics of the game is unfortunate, but I at least had a chance to see both sides of it, and I respect that's how it is."
Okay, now we have to ask the inevitable question: is he just complaining?
"I used to just hear about it from guys when I was younger and think, ‘Oh, you're just bitter.' But when you actually go through it, it's really tough and it's really humbling. I'm thankful for all the good years I had playing football, and I'm thankful for the years I had when it was tough, too - because you learn how to fight through and keep persevering. Good things can happen in other ways."
It's hard to know the truth when you're not privy to what's actually happening in the locker room and in the huddle. I suspect it lies somewhere in between, where it usually does. That season was the first year of a new coaching staff with a mostly young team ... they weren't going to realistically compete, so why not use 16 games to evaluate the young players like Givens.
On the other hand, Snead, Fisher and his coaches do not have a very good track record with receivers. It's still early, but they've opted to stick with a group of guys this year that hasn't proven anything yet. But there is still time, since most of the cast is young.
Smith's comments are frustrating because they sound like a bitter old veteran. (He retired last spring). They're also frustrating because the Rams have yet to find much success among their receivers. If they passed on a capable addition because of something unrelated to ability, it puts the front office and coaching staff's credibility and ability in question.