He knows life in the NFL can be fragile. He knows his chance could be on the next down. But that doesn’t make waiting on the sideline easier.
Running back Alfonso Smith is still working toward being a mainstay in the Cardinals' backfield.
Smith has played 69 snaps in five games this season, but his primary role has been on special teams. It gets him on the field, but Smith, in his fourth season, felt this was the year he’d finally have a larger role on offense.
It started off that way, when he had 10 carries for 26 yards in the season opener against St. Louis. Then his role dropped off. He had three rushes against Detroit, three at New Orleans, none at Tampa Bay and one Sunday against Carolina.
“We have a great group of running backs so it’s going to be like that some weeks,” Smith said. “I’m not going to get as many plays or as many carries, so I just have to know that and do what I can do when I’m in the game, special teams or if it’s a third-down situation or something like that.”
The Saints game may be the perfect example of Smith making the most of his opportunities.
He had three carries for 27 yards, all on the Cardinals’ first drive, but he made every one count. His first kept the drive going with a three-yard run for a first down. His second was for a 21-yard gain. And then he scored from the 3-yard line to cap the drive. It also happened to be the Cardinals’ lone touchdown of the game.
Smith doesn’t know his workload heading into a game, so he’s on call and on edge when the offense takes the field.
“That’s the thing that’s kinda tricky -- I go into a game, of course I’m going to practice like I’m going to play a lot,” Smith said. “I put a lot into practice and I put a lot into the film, just looking at stuff, just trying to get myself ready. When I don’t get to go out there as much, it can get frustrating a little bit.
“As long as the team’s doing well, overall, I’m fine.”
Smith’s snap count has declined every week, starting with 27 in Week 1 and bottoming out with two at Tampa Bay. On Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, he played seven snaps.
It’s not easy for Smith to watch a running game average 81 yards a game while he stands on the sideline. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Cardinals have gone 11 straight games without 100 yards rushing, the longest active streak in the NFL.
But his time can come at any moment and until that happens -- if that happens -- Smith will be waiting patiently, ready to go.
“I know you have to wait your turn,” Smith said. “I’ve been waiting my time. I really feel like I’ve gotten over the hump and as long as I can be consistent when I do get the ball, I’ll be fine with it. I know I’m going to get my chance. It’s definitely a long season. So you never know. If somebody goes down, the next thing you know I’m getting 10 carries, 16 carries. You never know.
“That’s the trick about it. Once you let it go, you start getting down on yourself, when your chance comes you’re kinda stuck like Chuck. I’m just trying to stay positive about everything. As long as we’re winning, I’m OK.”