NFL Notebook: Former Steeler Anthony Smith in Packers' plans

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Players don't win NFL jobs in voluntary, non-contact practices in June.

That said, it certainly doesn't hurt former Steeler Anthony Smith's case that he is out there practicing with the Green Bay Packers' first-team defense this spring while both of last year's starting safeties, Nick Collins and Atari Bigby, sit out.

And having signed with the Packers in March after three seasons with the Steelers, Smith has a leg up on learning the 3-4 defensive alignment new Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers is installing this offseason.

"He was the furthest ahead of anybody when we started this process," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week. "He looks very natural out there. He's an athletic safety. I can see why people were as high on him as they are, and I think he'll definitely factor in our safety group."

Smith has been practicing with the No. 1 defensive unit as Bigby recovers from last season's lingering injuries and Collins, who is believed to be unhappy with his contract, deals with family issues.

"We're missing a couple of our guys right now, so this is an opportunity to showcase your ability," said Packers secondary/safeties coach Darren Perry, who previously coached Smith in Pittsburgh.

Smith's main strength from the Packers' perspective is his familiarity with the 3-4 defense. While the switch to the 3-4 is a major change for defensive linemen and linebackers, it also affects the safeties; in Capers' version of the 3-4, the line between the traditional strong and free safety positions isn't as well-defined and safeties are required to switch assignments on the fly.

Smith appreciates the chance to play with the first team, but doesn't seem to think of the voluntary practices as his big chance to show coaches what he can do.

"They already know what I can do, that's why they brought me here," Smith said.

The chance to play in Green Bay represents a fresh start for Smith, who was a third-round pick from Syracuse in 2006 and started a total of 14 games in his first two seasons. But Smith fell out of favor with the Steelers' coaches last season and didn't start a game.

"I think he's learned a lot from what took place in Pittsburgh," Perry said. "He came in with a lot of potential and had some success right away. I don't want to say [he] got complacent, but I think he's realizing now that you can't take anything for granted or relax."

To date, Smith's most famous -- or infamous -- moment came when he guaranteed a Steelers' victory against the New England Patriots in 2007. Smith and the Steelers couldn't back up the talk, giving up big plays and ultimately losing the game.

But Smith doesn't want people to think he's an attention hound.

"I'm not a flashy person, I'm just an emotional player," he said.

Raiders

With their signing of Charlie Frye this week, Oakland has six quarterbacks on its roster. Along with Frye and starter JaMarcus Russell, the Raiders have Jeff Garcia, Seton-LaSalle High School product Bruce Gradkowski, Andrew Walter and Danny Southwick.

"We really just want to have enough arms and to create competition," coach Tom Cable said. "It's a little bit of both, just have enough [quarterbacks] to throw and have guys around."

Gradkowski signed with Oakland early in the offseason but has been erratic during workouts.

Broncos

Kyle Orton will be Denver's starting quarterback. Coach Josh McDaniels made the announcement yesterday as the team readied for today's final day of on-field prep for training camp in late July. The former Bears quarterback took all the snaps behind the first-team offensive line in practice. Orton has been competing for the starting position with Chris Simms.

Vikings

Count Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin among those who think Brett Favre should forget the idea of playing for Minnesota.

"Listen, Favre's 100 years old, stop this already," said Irvin, in Los Angeles to promote his Spike TV reality show "4th and Long."

"This is what's killing everybody. Every time Favre says, 'I want to come back,' it's like everybody on ESPN says, 'Whatever team he says he wants to come to, he makes them automatically a Super Bowl contender.' They said that same stuff last year with the Jets, and Favre gave out toward the end of the season."



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