BEREA — Shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday, coach Romeo Crennel announced that defensive end Robaire Smith would not be practicing so he could rest a strained neck. At 12:45 p.m., Smith took his normal turn in the defensive line drills.
“Me and the head trainer (Marty Lauzon) sat there and argued about it for like 10 minutes,” Smith said Friday. “I told him I’m going regardless if he’s going to tell Coach or not. He just told me to be careful with it.
“It’s the competitive side of me and me wanting to be out there.”
At a position decimated by injuries, the normally gentile Smith has been the old reliable. He’s dealt with injuries to his knee, back and now neck, but is on track to start his 16th game at right end on Sunday vs. San Francisco. End/nose tackle Shaun Smith is next on the line with 10 starts.
“At this time of year, a lot of people are going to be banged up,” said Robaire Smith, who practiced again Friday and is listed as probable on the injury report. “You just have to be able to fight through it.
“I think the team needs that. You don’t need to see too many guys sitting down. I want to show the guys I’m going to be out there regardless.”
Smith was signed in the offseason after seven years with Tennessee and Houston. He added beef (6-foot-4, 320 pounds), stability and production, but isn’t satisfied.
“I’m not going to say I’m happy,” he said. “I’m happy with the progress we’re making as a defense as a whole. We’ve come a long way as a whole, but I see a lot of improvement we can do.”
Smith has 63 tackles, three tackles for loss, four sacks and seven quarterback pressures. Two of the sacks came in the Nov. 18 win at Baltimore.
“He has added to the defensive line play,” Crennel said. “He’s a guy who is stout at the point. He gives good effort, has some surprising quickness at times and he has been able to hang in there and stay on the field.”
Smith’s latest malady was the scariest. In the second quarter Sunday in Cincinnati, he was in on a tackle, then remained on the turf facedown. After a couple of nervous minutes he was able to walk to the sideline, and he returned to the game after halftime.
“My neck got caught in a messed-up position when I was making the tackle,” he said. “It felt like it could’ve been bad. Once I got feeling back in my arm, I knew everything was going to be OK.”
He said he had no feeling for about a minute.
“There was a real bad burning, starting at the top of the neck and going all the way down across my back and arm,” he said.
The neck is still bothersome – he grimaced during neck stretching Friday – which would be enough for a lot of players to take Sunday off. Not only is the outcome nearly meaningless in the playoff chase, future Hall of Famer Larry Allen will line up opposite him.
Allen, a left guard in his 14th year, has been to 11 Pro Bowls, is a seven-time All-Pro and was voted a Pro Bowl alternate this year. Defensive linemen have been known to come down with “Allenitis,” according to New York Giants defensive lineman Michael Strahan.
“Guys get sick all of a sudden before they play him,” Strahan was quoted as saying in the 49ers press release. “Whether it’s the flu, ankle, foot, shoulder or back. I have all the respect in the world, but he’s a legalized killer.”
Smith was a sixth-round pick of Tennessee in 2000 and played there until 2003. After two years in Houston, he returned to the Titans for 2006. He said he hasn’t called any of his former teammates to wish them bad luck Sunday night versus the Colts. The Browns can only get into the playoffs with a Titans loss or tie.
“I know those guys are going to go out there and play hard,” Smith said. “Coach (Jeff) Fisher will be pumping them up.
“I’m going to sit back and watch it. It’s going to be an interesting game.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.