Harrison Smith Talks about Retirement Following Season Finale

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He has been a staple at the backend of Minnesota’s defenses for 12 years. But now, at age 34 (35 next month), it might be time to call it a career. Harrison Smith has been nothing short of spectacular in his potential Hall of Fame run with the Vikes, always playing at a high level and leading some excellent defenses.

Harrison Smith Talks about Retirement Following Season Finale

Harrison Smith Talks about Retirement after Season Finale
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NFL rosters constantly change, but he has always remained, joining the Vikings in 2012 when GM Rick Spielman made the selection in the first round of the draft. The former Notre Dame standout outlived everyone, as the other player with the longest stint on the 2023 roster was Danielle Hunter, who was drafted in 2015. C.J. Ham entered the locker room in 2016, Kirk Cousins and Brian O’Neill in 2018.

Off the field, Smith is a rather quiet person, someone who doesn’t need the spotlight. And that’s how he carried himself in the postgame interview after his potential final career game when he gave a vague outlook without committing towards retirement.

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Whenever I retire, I’m not going to tell you. You’ll figure it out. I’ll say this: It’s hard to have the ability to play and not have a desire to play. Whatever that gives you, I’m not trying to be ominous or anything. Right now, my shoulder hurts.

Well, we don’t know more now than before his answer, but he is coming close to the end. In the last two seasons, Smith has noticeably lost a step or two, and he is no longer an elite player like he used to be for the majority of his career.

Smith implied that he would continue to play if his body allowed it, but he must figure out if that is still the case after another 17 hard games.

According to the Star Tribune’s Andrew Krammer, Smith also said: “I’ve been at peace for a while. When I was a kid, I never thought I’d play in the NFL. To have a career I’ve had to this point, it’s pretty cool. Got to play with a lot of great people, a lot of great players and coaches. Lot of struggle, a lot of ups and downs. It’s kind of what makes it so fun, too. Sorry I don’t have anymore info.”

Through 12 seasons, Smith has racked up 176 games, made 1,039 combined tackles, 19.5 sacks, and caught 34 interceptions. He also forced 12 fumbles and scored four touchdowns.

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In case of retirement, the Vikings will miss his leadership in the backfield as he has done his best to babysit some terrible cornerback groups, taking the young units under his wings. But on the field, they will miss his versatility more than anything. He is one of the rare players, even in his advanced age, who can play in the box and as a deep safety at equally high levels. And he does a wonderful job disguising his assignment on any given play. That quality has brought him some praise from future Hall of Famers Aaron Rodgers and Bill Belichick in the past.

If Smith ultimately decides to walk away from the game in the next few months, the Vikings will still have emerging safety Camryn Bynum, who had a fantastic third campaign, and Josh Metellus, who is a Swiss army knife in Brian Flores’ defense, might become more of a traditional safety. Somewhere in the depths of the roster, there is still 2021 first-rounder Lewis Cine floating around on inactive lists or special teams, but if one spot opens, it may be a chance to finally kickstart his career.

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Smith is under contract for another two seasons but can retire at any point. The Vikings would be on the hook for over $19 million in cap hit in 2024 unless he takes a pay cut, something he did in the 2023 offseason to stick with the organization. Releasing him would free up almost $12 million of that cap hit if he intends to continue his career but the franchise decides to part ways.

The veteran also mentioned how much he will miss the camaraderie in the locker room, the feeling on gameday, and the friendships between competitors.

If it was indeed his final game, watching one of the all-time greats in Vikings history was a fun ride.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt