Tremon Smith Flips Back to Defense While Remaining Chiefs' No. 1 Kick Returner

Aug 10, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Tremon Smith (20) is tackled by Cincinnati Bengals free safety Clayton Fejedelem (42) during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. © Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Smith earned high grades as rookie for special teams play, but finding a home as position player remains elusive

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Last month during training camp, Tremon Smith traded in his No. 39 white defensive jersey for a No. 20 red jersey on offense. But despite switching position groups, one team never left was the Chiefs' special teams.

“Yeah, and (special teams) coach (Dave) Toub talked to me about it, stay up on the special teams,” Smith said. “That's what I do, with returning and kickoff, punt, punt return, being a gunner, it's really whatever they ask me.”

Whether Smith took snaps at cornerback, running back or wide receiver, he never left the club's kick return unit. When the unofficial depth chart for Week 1 came out this week, Smith remained as the No. 1 kick returner.

That's with good reason. Smith ranked fourth in the league last season averaging 26.8 yards on kick returns. He earned second-team All-Pro from Pro Football Focus and All-Rookie honors from the Pro Football Writers of America as kick returner.

Smith appreciates the recognition for his special teams play. He understands, however, that it's hard to prove your worth as an NFL player without a position on every down.

“It's good knowing all my hard work paid off, but obviously you want to play either on the offense or defense with being the kick returner too,” Smith said, “so I'm still striving to get a position on that, but as of right now I'm making a living in special teams.”

This week, Smith turns his focus to cornerback, knowing his number could get called Sunday.

“Just obviously preparing like I'm a starter just in case,” Smith said. “Hopefully nobody goes down, but just be ready, have no hiccups, get the trust back in that I know the playbook and know all the plays.”

The Chiefs start the season with four running backs, five receivers and four corners. Head coach Andy Reid said Smith can provide depth at all three spots in a pinch.

“Yeah, he's familiar enough with both sides of the ball where he could do that if needed,” Reid said.

Smith views his training camp time on offense as a positive in regards to showing the Chiefs he can become a multidimensional player.

“Just showing them what I can do, just showing how fluid of an athlete I am no matter what positions I play at. They can put me at anything and I'm going to give it my best, so that was big showing that I'm a real athlete.”

In fact, he relishes the thought of getting an opportunity to become a true two-way player the likes not often seen in the NFL over the last half century.

“There's not too many people that have done it, so I would love to be labelled as one of those guys,” Smith said.

When the Chiefs built their 53-man roster over the weekend, general manager Brett Veach explained his staff games out who likely earns an active roster spot on game days. Smith scored well in that determination as the club built a roster for Week 1 for one big reason.

“With Tremon, he plays some corner, he plays some running back, he plays some wideout,” Veach said. “But really where he stood out for us, and again I always say this, his special teams play, he was a really good teams player for us last year and then again this year.”

Smith's special teams skills make him a valuable player for this week, especially with De'Anthony Thomas suspended in Week 1.

“Given (Smith's) versatility and the fact that he does so much for us on teams, it just made more sense for us right now to keep him on the roster and play with the guys that will help us in Jacksonville,” Veach said.

Thomas returns next week, and the Chiefs will have to free up a roster spot for his arrival. Most NFL players know they could be here one day and gone the next, but Smith plans to keep doing what got him to this point thus far.

“I'm just happy to be here,” Smith said. “Whatever they ask from me I do, I don't complain about anything. Just keep pushing.”

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