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Harrison Smith: 'I Couldn't Imagine a Better Place to Play'

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Harrison Smith and the Vikings took care of business early Monday morning, in time for the safety to not miss a moment of work.

Smith signed a multiyear contract extension with the team that drafted him in 2012, then promptly prepared for meetings and the Vikings seventh of 10 voluntary organized team activity practices.

General Manager Rick Spielman traded back into the first round to tab Smith at the 29th overall spot after Vikings coaches had worked with him at the Senior Bowl more than four years ago.

Smith told he is excited to stay with the team that launched his pro career. He's been deployed my Head Coach Mike Zimmer in various ways the past two years and been helpful in the defense's improvements in multiple statistical categories since Zimmer's arrival in 2014.

"It's very hard to put into words right now," Smith said. "Coming into the league, getting an opportunity, getting drafted by Rick and being able to stay around here and be a part of what we're building here, what Coach Zim is building, it's huge in every type of way I can think off, to be able to stay in this building and chase that championship."

Smith said he appreciated the opportunity from "the entire Wilf family, Zygi and Mark, Rob Brzezinski, Coach Zimmer and all the players, the guys I want to play with and win championships with, and all the fans."

"I couldn't imagine a better place to play and a better organization to be a part of," Smith said. "I just can't say enough how blessed I am to stay here."

Smith, 27, is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance and was ranked by players across the NFL in the Top 100 Players of 2016 (No. 73). In 2015, he recorded 87 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, six quarterback hurries, two interceptions and two passes defended.

He returned one of the interceptions 35 yards for a touchdown against the New York Giants, giving him a franchise-record four scores on interception returns.

"You've seen it from his rookie year on," Spielman said. "It's hard to find a guy with that size that plays as aggressively as he does, but also has very unique instincts. We feel very strongly that he's one of the difference makers on our defense that can make game-changing plays, and those are the guys you want to keep around."

View the best photos of S Harrison Smith, after he signed his contract extension with the Vikings on Monday.

Smith's 2012 NFL Draft classmates Jarius Wright, Rhett Ellison, Blair Walsh and Audie Cole have all been re-signed by the Vikings. Because Smith was a first-round pick, however, the Vikings were able to exercise a fifth-year option on him before working out the long-term deal.

Spielman mentioned multiple times this offseason that re-signing Smith was a priority, and Smith told members of the media that he had faith based on how things had played out with several teammates.

"Everybody wanted to get this deal done," Spielman said. "Harrison is one of our young, core players and right in the prime of his career, and to keep our core, young guys like this is a huge part of us moving forward as an organization."

Spielman said the re-signings of core players are functions of shared beliefs between Vikings ownership, Zimmer and the personnel department.

"We want to draft well; coaches do a great job of developing these guys, and they become very good football players that help us win ball games," Spielman said. "Ownership gives us the resources to keep this group together and to keep our core together, hopefully for a long time."

The Vikings won the NFC North in 2015 with an 11-5 mark and are preparing to move into their new home, U.S. Bank Stadium, this fall. Minnesota is trying to win consecutive division titles for the first time since 2008-09, but Smith and others know that nothing in the future can be taken for granted.

"I've got to go hit the meetings right now," Smith said. "We've just got to keep this thing going and not get ahead of ourselves and focus on our mission."

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