Vikings Safety Will Play Football Forever

Dec 31, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Kendall Wright (13) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings defensive back Harrison Smith (22) and linebacker Anthony Barr (55) and linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings returned to TCO Performance Center on April 11th. This is the beginning of the offseason program. It is also the first time the team can get together in an official capacity.

For the media, this is the first time they really get to interact with the players. On the 11th, a select few players were scheduled to speak with the media. Among them was Vikings star safety Harrison Smith.

He made one interesting quip that stood out. Smith said that he would play football until they kicked him out. This is music to the ears of fans like me who appreciate his game and his press conferences.

Harrison Smith is always fun to listen to at these press conferences. He is personable, has comedic relief, and, when necessary, can get very detailed into the specifics of football. To say that he knows football is a bit of an understatement.

Oct 14, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

He is one of the smartest players in the NFL. Even opponents’ coaches and players agree he is challenging to play against. Bill Bellichick once compared Harrison Smith to Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. Aaron Rodgers always praises his ability to disguise the coverage the defense is running.

Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is a real possibility for Harrison Smith. This might make me sound like a homer, and I am. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that he is one of the best safeties in the league. When you get compared to guys like Reed and Polamalu by one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFL, the Hall of Fame starts becoming real.

How Does This Impact the Vikings’ Future?

The real question here is, how long can Harrison Smith play at a high level? It is one thing for him to want to play football until he gets kicked out. It is another for him to be able to play at a level sufficient to contribute to an NFL team.

Harrison Smith
Dec 6, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

That said, he hasn’t shown any real sign of degrading. Sure, he might have lost a step from his earlier playing days. However, when you understand the game as he does, you can make up for that.

Playing safety is a great position for an aging player. You often play 8 to 12 yards off the line of scrimmage. This allows players like Harrison Smith to use their football IQ to read and react. His lost speed is offset by being able to see the play and react one step sooner than slightly faster players.

However, the Vikings still need to find a way to replace him. He is 33 years old, and it becomes difficult to fathom a world in which he plays after 35. Thankfully, there is a player in the 2022 draft that could replace him.

It is a long shot that Kyle Hamilton, safety from Notre Dame, will fall to 12th overall. However, that doesn’t mean it is impossible. Hamilton has a lot of similar attributes to Smith, like his football IQ and ability to recognize and react to plays. He is instinctive.

We Vikings fans will gladly accept Harrison Smith playing out his time and retiring a Viking. However, there is an opportunity to draft his replacement this year. Let’s do it.

K.J. Osborn and Chad Beebe

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