It's a long road, Smith knows. He's approaching the task with maturity and an open mind.
"Everything is really, really fast. It's all business. They throw you in the fire and they want you to learn fast," said Smith. "Fortunately, I came from a great program (Louisville) where learning came easy to me. The coaches are sticking with me, teaching me. It's been a great ride so far."
Smith's life has been a whirlwind since the Eagles selected him 26th overall in the NFL Draft. He is the lone unsigned draft pick here, but isn't allowing the business side of things to distract his focus on football and on learning the linebacker positions.
If you fall behind in the playbook, it's hard to catch up.
"It's not the verbiage or anything like that with me. The speed of the game is different and you have to make sure you know your checks (defensive adjustments) a lot faster than in college," Smith said. "Coach (Chip) Kelly likes to have the music loud like it will be with a crowd, so you have to get the signals in and understand them and communicate with each other."
Smith is being taught the basics of the linebacker responsibilities now. The spoonfuls are generous, and at times heaping. So the level of retention is critical, which is why Smith leaves the NovaCare Complex and spends valuable time with his playbook at the rookie hotel.
The more he works on his own, Smith said, the more he's going to play fast and have a chance to contribute early in his career.
"Right now I'm learning the weak outside linebacker spot now, the 'Jack' position. He (outside linebackers coach Bill McGovern) wants me to master that first and then maybe I can start learning the 'Predator' along the way," said Smith. "Right now, I'm just learning the 'Jack.' There's a lot to it. I want to have everything down pat. I want to learn as much as I can, as fast as I can, to get on the field and help the defense."
Smith dropped into coverage enough at Louisville to give him a feel for it at the NFL level. It's not an entirely foreign concept, as it largely was, for example, when
Of course, this is all very much in the formative stages. Pads don't go on until Training Camp, and the defense likely won't have a chance to have full contact and tackling and all of the nastiness of the game until the preseason schedule opens.
"I think it's coming along really good," said Smith. "I know my role. I'm learning from Trent Cole and
What kind of an impact will Smith make in his rookie season? It's far, far, far too early to know. Smith is working his way into the tempo of life in the NFL on and off the field. His body is becoming accustomed to the tempo on the field. Smith is in good shape and working his way into prime condition after the pre-draft hype and travel routine.
Smith is settling down and settling in with resolve and confidence.
"It's going to come and I'm going to keep working at it and being critical of myself," he said. "The coaching here is great, both instructive and critical. You learn so much every day and then you come back and do it again, better, the day after."
That's the realistic goal. Baby steps. Progress. Add it all up and see where Smith is in September and then in October and through the season.
"I'm a patient learner," said Smith. "I try to take what my coaches tell me and use it every day in practice and if I mess up on something, I ask my coaches exactly what I messed up on so I can look at it on film and correct myself."