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Water Break with Harrison Smith: 2023 Campaign 'Up There' in Terms of Weirdness


Since being drafted by the Vikings in 2012, Harrison Smith has been a part of multiple seasons that have taken strange turns or featured unexpected events.

This one certainly is added to that list, as Minnesota overcame an 0-3 start and has navigated a season-ending injury to Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson landing on Injured Reserve, trading for Joshua Dobbs – who led the team to an improbable win just a few days later – bringing back Anthony Barr and other roller-coaster ups, downs and curves en route to entering Monday night's game against the Bears 6-5.

"It's up there," Smith laughed of where the 2023 campaign "ranks" in terms of weirdness.

"You kind of learn to go with the flow and just keep fighting, no matter what the scenario is. I've seen it play out so many ways," Smith said. "Just keep the positivity, enjoy the time with your group, your team, your coaches, the people in the building. That's normally when good things start to happen."

Good things have certainly happened this season for "The Hitman," who's already tied his season-high of sacks (3.0) and forced fumbles (3). The upcoming Monday Night Football contest will mark Smith's 171st regular-season game, which ties Hall of Famer Paul Krause for the most by a Vikings DB.

We caught up with Smith for a Water Break, presented by Crown Royal.

Q: Being at this point in the season, what have you enjoyed the most about playing in Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores' system?

A: Just to start with, kind of the mindset that Flo' brings – trying to do what we want to do instead of adjusting to what they want us to do. Having a bunch of multiple guys out there playing different spots. There doesn't always have to be a title on it. Being able to adjust on the fly. It's been a great learning experience, as far as football goes and kind of what you can do with 11 guys on the field and how you can make adjustments pretty quickly and still fly to the ball. We've been doing a good job of attacking the ball, too. Punching the ball out, maybe [could] catch a few more. But it's been a very enjoyable learning experience. And then just the basics of playing football – running and tackling – we have a really good group that gets after it.

Q: How has NaJee Thompson done as 'Celebration Coordinator'?

A: I'd give him a passing grade. I wouldn't say he's exceeding expectations right now, but he's doing enough to pass. I think we can up it a little bit.

Illustration by Morgan Frober
Illustration by Morgan Frober

Q: You've done the Pat McAfee Show a few times now; it seems like you've had fun with it?

A: Yeah, it is a fun show. He does a good job with it. You almost forget it's such a popular show because he's easy to talk to, his whole group of guys. He's got [Darius Butler] a lot, and A.J. Hawk – two defensive guys – and they make it fun. I think it's good for the viewers.

Q: Has it been weird seeing A.J. Hawk, a former rival, in that capacity?

A: Not really. I think it fits him. I think all those guys do a great job. They make it an enjoyable show for people to watch. It's not stale. It feels like you're having a normal conversation, and you're not too guarded.


Q: Were you a Creed fan before this season?

A: I drove from South Bend to Panama City Beach my last year of college for spring break, and we listened – I am not exaggerating this – we listened to, I forgot which album it was, but we listened to one of their albums, and that's it. The whole trip. We didn't skip any songs. We just let it play. We didn't even do it on purpose; it just happened. I don't know how many hours that drive was, but it was a lot.

Q: What has that Creed pregame tradition been looking like?

A: Everybody's doing their warmups and stuff, and once Creed comes on it's like, 'OK,' and you really start honing in on the game and locking in. It's a good trigger for us.

Q: Is it just the one song?

A: Ah, we've mixed it up a little bit. "Higher," "My Sacrifice."


Q: Your pregame looks a little bit different now than it used to, as well. What's it been like now that your daughter Eleanor is toddling around and can interact with you on the sideline?

A: She likes to play. So she wants to get on the field, and she wants to get a football in her hands. But also, I used to never even go out to warm up before we were in pads. Now just being older, I need a little warmup on my own, so it kind of works out nice to get my time with the family and a little warmup.

Q: And you and your wife are expecting Baby No. 2 this winter – congrats! What were your thoughts when you found out you're having a boy?

A: We're happy. We're just happy to have [another] child.

Q: Have you gotten any good (or funny) parenting advice from teammates?

A: Not a whole lot of funny stuff. Those things just tend to happen on their own. But most of the advice I've gotten from dads is just to take advantage of the time, because it flies by, and I can definitely tell that's true.