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DeVonta Smith is all business eyeing the opener

DeVonta Smith 1920 081721

For a young man preparing to play his first NFL regular-season game, Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith sure sounds seasoned. He isn't one to boast. He isn't going to make outlandish predictions. And for sure you aren't going to get any bulletin-board material from No. 6.

Instead, he's keeping it professional and earnest and – ssshhhh – quiet. Asked how he responds to expectations for his rookie campaign, starting on Sunday against the Falcons in Atlanta – where he spent this past Saturday watching his alma mater Alabama Crimson Tide roll Miami in college football's opening weekend – Smith responded with no emotion. Just the truth.

"Just control what I can control, do my job," he said. "When you control what you can control, everything is going to work out for you. Just focus on the task at hand."

Smith is part of one of the youngest groups of wide receivers the Eagles have had in many years and while expectations are kept personal from the players and coaches, it's fair to say that the fans can't wait to watch him on a full-time basis. For Smith? Do his job. That's the bottom line.

"Just play my role," Smith said. "Coach (Nick) Sirianni, we just had a meeting and it was all about people just playing their role. So, whatever my role is, embrace it and play my role."

For anyone who asked Smith over the weekend about his mindset and how the NFL is different from college football, he had a simple message: The NFL is a bottom-line deal. Those who focus on their jobs and carry out their assignments the right way every day are the ones who survive and thrive.

"It's a business. You've got to carry yourself the right way. One mistake and things can not go the way you want them to go," Smith said. "It's a business and you have to carry yourself the correct way."

It's so difficult to peer into the future and imagine just how involved Smith will be in the offense in his rookie season. A look back shows that rookies have had mixed bags in terms of production for the Eagles. Mike Quick, a franchise Hall of Famer, caught 10 passes in 1982. Calvin Williams had 37 catches and nine touchdowns as a rookie and Fred Barnett added eight touchdown receptions and 36 receptions. DeSean Jackson had 62 catches for 912 yards in 2008 and Jeremy Maclin caught 55 passes the next year. Jalen Reagor had 31 receptions for 396 yards and a touchdown last season.

Smith? You never know, other than he's going to be a factor.

"DeVonta is going to have a big role on this team," Sirianni said. "We talk about that all the time. We talked about that today and one of the things we talk about with the team a lot is, 'What are the things that are going to prevent you from getting better every single day?' That is the goal at the end of the day, is to continue to make these gains of getting better every single day, because that's going to lead you to where you want to go. Staying level-headed, know that you have to come to work every single day, regardless of what you did the day before. That's also similar to what we talk about when we talk about 'dog mentality.' I think the players know that.

"There isn't a day that goes by where I don't go over those things with the players."

Certainly, the moment isn't going to be too big for Smith, who won the National Championship on a team basis and won the Heisman Trophy on an individual basis at Alabama. He has been in the spotlight for years, so opening an NFL season, while it's likely to bring with it excitement and maybe even some butterflies, is going to be just another game for Smith.

He isn't looking ahead. He isn't taking the day out of context. For DeVonta Smith, Sunday represents the first game that counts in what everyone hopes is a long and successful NFL career. Other than that?

"I can only control what I can control," he said.

And that's that. The wide receiver who doesn't say a lot will let his play do the talking. In the business of the NFL, that's all that matters.

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