Former Eagle TE Smith Speaking Out About Lost Season

Former Eagles tight end L.J. Smith spoke out recently about his tumultuous final year with the Birds.

Smith felt as if he wore a target with Philadelphia last year and hopes to have a better season with the Baltimore Ravens this year.

Coming off an injury-laden 2007 season, Smith received the franchise tag from the Eagles in 2008 despite having never made a Pro Bowl team. Another round of injuries ensued, forcing him to miss four starts and dropping his numbers far below expectations.

"There were some times when I felt last year there was a microscope on me. I felt like I had a bull's-eye on my back because I got franchised," Smith said this week.

Injuries didn't help him live up to the franchise tag.

The 29-year-old Smith played in only 10 games in 2007 because of the lingering effects of a sports hernia, a groin injury and a sore knee. His misfortune continued last year, when he missed time with a shoulder injury, a concussion and a bad back.

Smith finished with 37 catches for 298 yards and three touchdowns -- hardly worthy of his $4.52 million contract as a franchise player. Smith readily concedes missed time was a factor, but believes he would have been more productive with a larger role in the game plan.

Smith didn't have a 100-yard game last season, but his backup did. While Smith was sidelined with a concussion, Brent Celek caught six passes for 131 yards -- the highest single-game yardage total by an Eagles tight end in more than 40 years.

"I felt like there were some opportunities I could have capitalized on, and they could have used me a little differently," Smith said. "But I'll say I had a good time there. I became a man in Philadelphia and I learned a lot. I just felt like it was kind of, well, we're not going to bring him back so let's bring up the other guy a little bit."

This season, the sure-handed tight end intends to be an attractive target for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Soon after becoming a free agent, Smith signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with Baltimore.

"I'm definitely excited because I see I'm going to be able to contribute. I'm another weapon on offense," Smith said. "[Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron] is going to get me involved. At the same time, if I don't master this offense it's going to be tough. That's my job right now, to get this offense down. Once I do that, I'm good to go."

"It doesn't matter if you're a 10-year vet or a second-year player who had a great rookie season, you always have something to prove because they're always looking to replace you. That's just the nature of the game," Smith said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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