Why Harrison Smith Stayed

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Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The situation was touch-and-go for a few days in March, as Minnesota Vikings fans wondered if Harrison Smith would stay with the team that drafted him twelve years ago — or depart for a new beginning like Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks days before.

Smith, 34, admitted Tuesday to reporters he genuinely entertained leaving the club but ultimately stayed because “it felt right.”

Why Harrison Smith Stayed

The Vikings finished 13-4 in head coach Kevin O’Connell’s first season despite ranking 27th in defensive DVOA, 30th in points allowed, and 31st in yards allowed. To build upon or maintain the unforeseen 2022 performance, Minnesota needs all the help it can get on defense, so Smith’s decision to restructure felt close to required.

Why Harrison Smith
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

And at that same press conference, Smith revealed why he stayed in three main parts:

  1. The hire of Brian Flores as defensive coordinator.
  2. The Vikings ownership — the Wilfs.
  3. He grew up here.

That last one is figurative — Smith grew up in Tennessee — but you get the point. He grew where he was planted as a 23-year-old departing South Bend, Indiana, for Minneapolis in 2012.

Smith began his why-he-stayed answer to the media about fitness, “You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself. Start at the ground floor. How’s your physical mobility, your strength, how’s your speed and those things, and focus on the fundamentals of that. What made you the athlete that got you to the NFL?”

1 Viking Significantly More
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

“Maybe go back to some of those things, dumb it down a little bit, and then get into the scheme or get into the real mental, acidic stuff that piles up throughout the year, so I think just starting with, Is my weight good? Can I move well? Am I ready for contact? Is my mind in a good place to kind of exchange some old information and bring in some new? So, it’s kind of a reset and check the oil and stuff like that,” Smith continued about his training regimen.

Smith leads all NFL safeties in tackles and interceptions since turning pro in 2012 and is second in sacks via the same metric.

Then, he diverted into the beefy stuff, explaining why he’s still a Viking, “I’d say Flo was a big reason. I wouldn’t say it was one thing. You definitely have to appreciate what the Wilfs have done with the Vikings, the leadership they have, and the investment they have in the franchise and the community and being part of the community.”

Brian Flores Changed the Vikings Offseason
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He concluded, “I kind of grew up here in a sense, so there’s tangible things I’ve thought about and intangible things. They all kind of added up to I wanted to stay here and give it another crack. It’s tough to quantify everything, right? You try to because it makes you feel good, that there’s a right answer or wrong answer, but you don’t always know. It felt right to stay.”

Smith was the NFL’s 37th-best safety in 2022, according to Pro Football Focus, but the Vikings defense often looked uncoordinated without him. And with Lewis Cine injured for the season early in October, Minnesota would’ve been down to peanuts without Smith on the depth chart. Now, with the aforementioned Flores in charge, Smith will have free reign in the Vikings secondary, likely to be utilized as a pass rusher more frequently to align with Flores’ aggressive modus operandi.

Finally, Smith explained the origins of the famous “Prince picture tweet” to reporter Chris Tomasson:

In retrospect, the moment Flores was hired after Ed Donatell’s dismissal might’ve kept Smith’s cover-to-cover career intact with the Vikings.

Something to remember in the annals of Vikings history.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.