Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ryan Smith Learning on the Fly

A spring injury and a change of positions have upped the level of difficulty in Ryan Smith's first NFL training camp, but he's a promising young talent on the Bucs' developing defense.

Some of the best photos from the first week of Training Camp.

Training camp is a learning experience for everyone, but some players have to hit the books a little harder than others.

For Ryan Smith, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' fourth-round pick in 2016, circumstances have conspired to turn his first training camp into a crash course. Consider that Smith:

  • As mentioned, is a rookie;
  • Hails from North Carolina Central, which is a Division I football program but, as part of the MEAC, still represents a bigger adjustment to the NFL than, say, Florida or UCLA;
  • Was a college cornerback who is being asked to learn a new position at the professional level;
  • Missed most of the team's offseason program after he was drafted due to a minor injury.

"Ryan, unfortunately, had an injury all throughout OTAs so he's a little behind in number of reps," said Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith. "But he's a hitter, he can run and he's got talent. He's going to be a guy that's a little bit behind just because he didn't have the snaps that other guys had in OTAs.

Smith and his 89 Buccaneer teammates are enjoying camp's first off day on Tuesday, but there's a good chance he's using it to study the playbook. One couldn't blame him if his head was starting to spin after five fast-paced days of practice at One Buccaneer Place.

"It's coming along pretty good," said Smith after the last of those five field session. "I'm just trying to get the plays down right so that I know it like the back of my hand, so I can play faster. For me, it's all about learning, learning everything. The skill is there but I have to learn so I can play faster and get better."

](http://www.buccaneers.com/news/article-smith/Vernon-Hargreaves-Stepping-Up-to-First-Team/12f2787e-5586-4d7d-a00d-c4896d2a0754)The position that Smith is trying to absorb as quickly as possible is safety, where he's been running with the second team alongside Keith Tandy and behind first-teamers Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald. It's not a completely new position for him, as he did play it for a couple seasons at NCCU, but he finished his college days as a cornerback and thought that's what he would be doing in the NFL. The Bucs' plans for him came as a surprise, but he's willing to make the adjustment.

"I didn't expect that," said Smith of the move back in the secondary. "I wanted to play corner but I'm here to help the team. I'm down to play safety, it's just that the learning aspect is a little harder right now. But it's okay, I'll be fine."

At 5-11 and 189 pounds, Smith isn't a particularly big safety – he's the lightest of all the safeties listed on the Bucs' roster – but he was a hard-hitter in college and one of his team's leading tacklers. The Bucs had him timed in the 40-yard dash in the 4.3-4.4 range and thought he was a very smart player who could handle a position switch, or perhaps eventually offer them something at both safety and cornerback. That's something that Tandy, another converted college corner, has done at times in his career in certain sub packages.

](http://www.buccaneers.com/news/article-1/Recap-Buccaneers-Training-Camp-August-1/9bc11336-79c4-4046-b0aa-6f32ce84fd13)Smith likes the idea of getting a little cornerback play and also thinks that his new spot will make him better at his old one in the long run.

"Actually, playing safety is better for me in a way because the more you know at safety will make you a better corner," he said. "You'll be able to play the whole defense better. Like I said, I'm fine with it. I've just got to learn so I can play faster."

When the Buccaneers put on full pads for the first time on Sunday, Smith took advantage. On one full-team snap near the end of that day's two-hour workout, Smith crowded the line of scrimmage, found a running back trying to dart through a seam and met him with solid shoulder contact – which is about as far as Buc coaches want their would-be tacklers to go against their teammates.

As evidenced by that play, Smith won't shy away from the more physical demands of the safety position.

"I don't want to say it's a strength, but it's not a weakness at all," he said. "My weight, I'm not that big, but at the same time I'm not soft either. So I can bring a little boom with it."

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