Debut just first step for Bucs rookie safety Ryan Smith
It was only six snaps, all on special teams, but for Bucs rookie safety Ryan Smith, Sunday's game against the Rams was a big first step, making his NFL debut after being inactive in the Bucs' first two games.
"It felt great to get back out there for my first NFL game," Smith said Thursday, preparing for Sunday's game against the Broncos. "It was a very cool feeling, a blessed feeling. I'm making the best of my opportunity, but I've got more to do."
Smith was limited at the start of the season by a hand injury suffered in the final preseason game. The Bucs have not used their backup safeties much at all, leaning heavily on starters Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald, with third safety Keith Tandy logging only 25 defensive snaps in three games.
Smith, a fourth-round draft pick in April, played at Division II North Carolina Central, so Sunday was the biggest crowd he'd ever played in front of -- the Eagles play in a 10,000-seat stadium, but he played to bigger crowds at East Carolina in 2014 (42,758) and at Duke last season (33,941).
Smith said he continues to learn the Bucs' defensive scheme better each week, and now that he's part of the active 46 players on Sunday, he's gaining confidence for when he's called to play on defense as well.
"I'm just staying in my playbook, so when they do ask me questions, I can show them that I know what I'm talking about, so when my number is called, I know what I'm doing out there," he said. "I feel pretty good, but I'd like to feel better. That comes with more reps. The more reps I get, the better I'll be. For now, I'm just learning and watching the vets do it."