More, from the "everything is rosy but of course it's just May" file.
Back surgery rejuvenates Steelers' Marvel Smith
By Scott Brown
Monday, May 5, 2008
Marvel Smith may have been the happiest Steeler at mini-camp, and not because the practices got him out of lugging home the gifts his wife received Saturday at a baby shower in California.
"Just to be back here playing football, I couldn't wait," the Steelers' left tackle and soon-to-be-father said. "Even my wife was talking about how I couldn't wait."
It's easy to see why.
Smith is free of the pain that tested his unusually high threshold and prematurely ended his 2007 season. And he talked of the surgery that relieved pressure a loose piece of a disc had put on a nerve in his back almost as if it were a liberating experience.
That is how much pain he played through last season.
"While I was (in the hospital), I woke up and felt better right away," Smith said of the December procedure.
The Steelers, in turn, had to feel better.
Smith has the important job of protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's blind side, and the ninth-year veteran has established himself as one of the better left tackles in the NFL.
Last year showed that he may also be among the toughest.
Smith started 12 games for the Steelers even though the nerve problem in his back caused his lower right leg to go numb during games.
"I'd come up to the line of scrimmage and I couldn't feel my foot sometimes," Smith said. "I couldn't tell if my foot was planted in the ground some of the time."
The light mood he exhibited during mini-camp, which concluded Sunday, provided some insight into what Smith had to play through last season.
Not that his teammates or coaches ever knew. Smith, who played with ankle sprains during the 2006 season, never complained about it.
"That's just the type of guy he is," added Max Starks, who started four games in place of Smith last season. "He's a fierce competitor, and he's not going to let anything stand in his way of him trying to help his team as much as possible."
The 6-foot-5 Smith expects to be a bigger help to his team.
He has lost 20 pounds, and he plans on playing at around 310 pounds this season (he was listed at 321 pounds for the 2007 season). Meanwhile, the surgical procedure restored some of the strength Smith didn't have last season, particularly in his right foot.
"I feel great, really," said the 30-year-old Smith, who is entering the final year of his contract. "I feel lighter, quicker, faster, all of that stuff."
He also feels younger, at least as a football player.
And when asked if he thinks he still has plenty of good years left in him, Smith said, "No doubt about it."
I'd feel dandy, too, if I were in a contract year...