RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Malcolm Smith tracked the eyes of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and leapt into the air, snagging the football with one hand for an interception before racing 60 yards in the opposite direction for a touchdown.
Earl Thomas, K.J. Wright and other members of Seattle’s defense chased Smith to the end zone, shouting “MVP! MVP!”
Not a bad first full day back on the practice field for Seattle’s Super Bowl MVP.
“That was a terrific play by him,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “It’s awesome to have him back out here.”
Smith has been sidelined throughout the entire offseason while recovering from ankle surgery this spring. He showed Tuesday that he’s itching to get back to work with his teammates.
“You come off a pretty good game — we did some great stuff in the Super Bowl — and then (the offseason) was just a lull for me,” Smith said. “A lot of down time. A lot of watching and a lot of learning. Dealing with my own emotions and stuff every day. It was good to get out here today and start moving around a little bit.”
While Smith had been able to participate in walkthroughs with the team, he was held out of practice until this week. Smith was limited on Monday before taking on a larger workload Tuesday. His leaping interception was the highlight of practice for the Seahawks.
“He made a cameo appearance and showed what MVPs do,” linebackers coach Ken Norton said. “It was really good for him to get some work, some good positive work, and now his confidence is back where it was before and we’re excited about putting good days together for him to play this week.”
Smith may not play this Friday in Seattle’s third preseason game against the Chicago Bears, but he is on track to be ready by the start of the regular season.
“If we had a game today, I feel like I could play,” Smith said. “So, you know, I’ll just keep building from there and try to get the most out of my ankle.”
A former seventh-round draft pick, Smith has continued to develop into a trusted member of the Seahawks defense. Norton and head coach Pete Carroll recruited Smith to USC in 2007. After Carroll left USC for the Seahawks in 2010, Smith was again reunited with his old coaching staff when he was selected with the 242nd pick of the 2011 draft.
“He’s been with us forever, since like fourth grade it seems,” Carroll joked. “He’s a real fixture in our defense. We love his flexibility. He’s such a great playmaker so it’s great to get him back.”
Smith played in 15 regular-season games for Seattle last season, making eight starts. He racked up 54 tackles, two interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble during the regular season, but took his game to another level in the playoffs.
In the NFC championship against the San Francisco 49ers, Smith hauled in an interception on a tipped pass by Richard Sherman that clinched the 23-17 victory for the Seahawks. Then in the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos, Smith returned a deflected Peyton Manning pass 69 yards for a touchdown and recovered a fumble by Demaryius Thomas. He also recorded 10 tackles.
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