If you’re worried about Nolan Smith’s shoulder injury, Smith says don’t be.
The Eagles’ first-rounder claims he’s fine.
“I’m feeling good,” Smith said after Thursday’s preseason game. “I know everybody worrying about my shoulder injury. They just took me out for precaution reasons.”
Smith, 22, left the Eagles’ preseason tie against the Browns in the first half. Even though he was listed as questionable, he did not return after his trip to the medical tent and then to the locker room.
But Smith did emerge from the tunnel to watch the rest of the game from the sideline. He said he could have gone back in the game, but he was pulled for precautionary reasons.
Smith had surgery in November to repair his pectoral muscle and said Thursday’s injury was related. But he also claimed it’s nothing to worry about. He said he didn’t feel pain and described it as more of a “stinger.” Smith said he went to the sideline and trainers rubbed his shoulder with Icy Hot.
“You could say it’s scar tissue, something simple like (that),” Smith said. “I don’t really want to get too deep into it. But it’s my baby and I take care of it every day. Sometimes she works and sometimes she don’t.”
It looked like Smith initially injured his shoulder on an impressive rush early in the second quarter on a third down play but he stayed in for the very next snap on the punt unit.
And then he even played the following series — running down speedy receiver Anthony Schwartz — before being forced out of action.
“I stayed in because it needs to get loose,” Smith said. “If you ever have surgery and working off of rehab and then coming back to play football, most people don’t know that it’s just little things. I’d say it wasn’t even nothing that I’m worried about. I’m just ready to go play next week, train for the Colts.”
Smith said it’s a point of pride for him to play special teams. He wants to prove to the Eagles that he can do everything. And he wants to prove to everyone else that he’s still the same player with the “same juice” as the guy who tore his pec during the 2022 college football season.
Against the Browns, Smith played 23 snaps and his athleticism popped yet again.
On the play where he initially got dinged up, Smith dipped under Dawand Jones (6-8, 374) and made a beeline for Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Smith didn’t get the sack but Kentavius Street and Marlon Tuipulotu cleaned up, combining for the sack after Smith made Thompson-Robinson flee.
When Smith got up, he seemed to be favoring his shoulder. He also seemed pretty frustrated with himself.
“I just get mad at myself because them plays, I gotta finish,” Smith said. “That’s why they brought me here. They brought me here to finish plays. Not get close, not almost do that. They brought me here to finish and make plays and that’s what I’m here to do.”
Smith has now played in two games this preseason and he’s flashed in both of them. But he has yet to register his first sack in game action.
If he keeps playing like we saw on Thursday night, it’s only a matter of time.
“I’m hungry and I’m waiting,” Smith said. “So next week hopefully is the week. I don’t know. You never know. Trying to get sacks in the NFL is like trying to hit home runs.”
Not only is Smith hungry, but he’s wearing that hunger.
The Eagles’ rookie on Thursday night was sporting a hoodie from his University of Georgia days that read “EAT OFF THE FLOOR” and he explained what it means.
“You ain’t never been hungry enough to think about eating off the floor, have you?” Smith said. “Yeah, I’m talking about starving. That’s the mentality that I got. I just like to eat off the floor.”
Smith is already feeling more comfortable in this defense and said that he mostly knows what play call is coming from DC Sean Desai before that information is relayed by the MIKE linebacker. Smith feels in tune with this defense.
When asked to assess his play in the first two weeks of the preseason, Smith said he needs to be better. And he looks forward to working with overhang coach Jeremiah Washburn to improve his rushes.
Although, fans will probably tell you they’re plenty pleased about his play and excited about his future after watching Smith against the Ravens and Browns. Smith wants to be out there for the preseason finale against the Colts. We’ll see if the Eagles give him that chance.
On Thursday night, Smith was already eager to prove he was healthy.
“It’s amazing. Shake my hand,” Smith said about his shoulder to a reporter who joined the interview late, before shaking hands. “See, look at that.”