Houston Texans veteran defensive end Antonio Smith said one of his roles is to share his Super Bowl experience, similar to when quarterback Kurt Warner took him under his wing in Arizona.
The Texans are a Super Bowl contender. Some say they're the team to beat in the AFC. The Texans, though, lack postseason experience. Houston has only playoff win in franchise history — a wild-card round game last season.
“Definitely,” said Smith, who played at Oklahoma State. “When we face any obstacle, or any adverse situation, whatever things I've seen, maybe I can help with whatever wisdom I have because of that run we had in Arizona.
“Sometimes you don't want to push too much. But that knowledge is good to have. Sometimes you're in a situation you've never been in before and a lack of knowledge will get you beat.”
Nicknamed “Scooby” the day he was born, Smith signed a five-year, $35 million deal with the Texans months after the Cardinals lost to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII. The John Marshall product believes the Texans have a roster capable of capturing the Lombardi Trophy.
“As soon as I got here it resembled what we were on the verge of in Arizona,” Smith said. “It's just a matter of putting it all together. This year more than any year, if we can keep our guys healthy, this is going to be a hard team to beat.”
Keeping quarterback Matt Schaub healthy has been a challenge. But when Schaub is healthy Houston features two of the league's top weapons in running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson.
One key has been Wade Phillips, who was named Houston's defensive coordinator last season after going 34-22 as head coach in 3½ seasons in Dallas. Phillips' impact was immediate.
“I've never been around a coach like Wade,” Smith said. “I've never felt this good with a defense as far as the players, the system. He knows exactly what to do to put us in position to make plays. It's contagious. He's the ideal coach you want to play for.”
Houston is ranked second in overall defense, which is where the Texans finished last year.
“We finished No. 2 by less than 100 yards (around 5 yards a game),” Smith said. “The last game of the season, we took our starters out midway through the second quarter. We could have easily been the No. 1 defense statistically last year. We took pride in that.
“But it's a new year. We have to make a name for ourselves. When we came into training camp this year, one of our goals was to try to be the No. 1 defense. We don't want to just be in the top five. Our goal is to be No. 1.”
In his ninth season, Smith compiled a career best 6½ sacks last year and played in the Pro Bowl.
A fifth-round pick in 2004, Smith has been durable. He leads all active NFL defensive ends with 111 consecutive games played.
“It's just mastering what you do,” Smith said. “Last year I had a move that was working, and then you face a couple of good offensive lines that game plan to take away that No. 1 move. You have to go to the drawing board to counter what they're doing. It's part of growing.”
Smith hasn't attended a game at Boone Pickens Stadium in a few years, since the Cowboys have been on the road during Houston's bye week. But this year, Smith plans to attend OSU's Oct. 27 game against TCU during the Texans' off week.
“It's a lot different than when I was there,” Smith said. “It's a state of the art stadium. Last year I thought they should have been in the national championship game. They've set the standards where they should be a top contender year after year.”
Houston is viewed as a top contender. But safety Danieal Manning is the only other player on Houston's roster other than Smith that's played in a Super Bowl. Manning played for Chicago his rookie season, when the Bears lost to Indianapolis.
Can Houston (3-0) earn homefield advantage in the AFC?
“The goal is to win as many games as we can,” Smith said. “Sometimes in the past, I've frowned upon having homefield advantage because there's been a trend where teams with a first-round bye lose in the first round of the playoffs. But I think that's more superstition in people's heads.
“If you get homefield advantage and get a bye, you only have to win two games to get to the Super Bowl. I'm confident we have the team that can get there.”