Rod Smith showed up at the Denver Broncos' team camp Tuesday and immediately went to work with the receivers.
"There's nothing I wouldn't do to try to help us get back to where I feel we belong," Smith said.Only instead of running routes, he passed out pointers.
But don't call him Coach Smith just yet.
"That's like disrespectful," Smith said with a grin.
The Broncos' all-time leading receiver isn't ready to walk away from football despite two hip operations in the last year and a half.
"There's always a chance," said Smith, who's currently on the Broncos' reserve/retired list. "But I've got to worry about my body right now. That's what I've been doing for the last few months. It's getting a lot better."
The 38-year-old Smith can actually sleep through the night without the hip waking him up because of the pain. He also frequently runs on a treadmill and shoots a little basketball.
"I can do a lot of things I couldn't do for sure last year," Smith said. "Right now I'm just working to be in shape. I'm not working to be in football shape. I'm not out there in my yard running routes or anything like that ... The thing is to make sure I can do the little things before I take those bigger steps."
In February, Smith provided the Broncos with some salary cap relief by agreeing to go on the reserve/retired list. The team retains his rights, but he doesn't count against the Broncos' roster limit or collect his salary.
For him to come off the list, he has to apply for reinstatement to the league office, in accordance with league rules. He was scheduled to make $1.5 million next season.
There's no time frame for Smith's decision on whether to call it a career or come back. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan isn't pushing him for an answer.
"Whenever I know one way or the other, he'll let me do it," Smith said.
The Broncos made bolstering their depth at receiver an offseason priority, bringing in Keary Colbert, Samie Parker and Darrell Jackson after severing ties with Javon Walker.
Should his hip heal, Smith could be a nice bonus at wideout. If not, there's always coaching.
"You can learn so much from him," said Brandon Stokley, who has dinner with Smith almost every week. "I've learned a lot."
While the Broncos haven't approached Smith with an official position, he'd be willing to listen.
But only after his playing days are officially over.
"I'm always open to anything," he said. "I love the organization. There's nothing I wouldn't do to help, whether it's on the field or off the field. Anything I can do -- even just sitting there and talking to some of the players."
Colbert stayed late after practice Tuesday with a few other wideouts, listening to Smith's impromptu class on Receiving 101. The topic of the day was how to gain added separation from a defensive back when a receiver comes out of his break.
"It's a real advantage for me to have a guy like him around and help me be the best player I could be," Colbert said. "The knowledge that he has is so valuable."
Smith gladly dispenses out his knowledge of the position, a role he was relegated to in 2007 as he spent the season on the sideline in sweats because of his ailing hip.
"There's nothing I wouldn't do to try to help us get back to where I feel we belong," Smith said.
If he's hauled in the last pass of his career, he's at peace with it. Smith holds franchise records for career receptions (849), receiving yards (11,389), touchdown catches (68), touchdowns (71) and 100-yard games (31).
He also leads all undrafted players in every major receiving category.
"You knew it eventually was going to end," the Missouri Southern alumnus said. "At the same time, you can't slam the door on your opportunity when you still have a chance for it to be open. You can't just close the door on that. When it's time to close the door, trust me, I'm going to close it and wish the Broncos the best, no matter what."
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