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Saturday, April 7, 2012
Jets announce signing of rugby star

By Rich Cimini

The Jets made it official on Saturday, announcing the signing of Australian rugby star Hayden Smith.

Say this about the Jets: They're not afraid to think outside the box.

This is a no-risk signing. If he can't cut it, no harm, no foul.

On paper, Smith has the measurable to be an NFL tight end -- 6-foot-6, 265 pounds. He reportedly runs the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds, exceptional for a man his size. People who know him say he's bright and will be able to assimilate a complex NFL offense.

And you know he's tough. Anybody who ever watched a rugby match knows that you don't belong on that field if you're not one tough hombre.

That said, it's important to maintain realistic expectations. It would be a reach to say Smith will make the 53-man roster. Remember, the man never has played a down of football, and you're stretching if you think he's going to come in, win a job and suit up on Sundays. He probably doesn't know how to put on shoulder pads.

Tight end is a tough position to learn. It's mentally challenging because you have to block, catch, shift, go in motion ... it's a multi-dimensional job. Obviously, Smith has the physical tools and, presumably, the temperament to play special teams, but that, too, isn't a gimme.

If Smith shows he has something, he can spent a year on the practice squad, developing his skills. He's not going to walk in and become the next Antonio Gates. Everybody is looking for the next Gates -- the Jets have tried in recent years by signing former college basketball players -- but it's a 1,000-to-1 shot.

For now, sit back and enjoy the show. If nothing else, Smith will be a compelling subplot on "Hard Knocks" this summer -- assuming there is a "Hard Knocks" 2.0, which is looking likely.