Will Smith wasn't the free agent signing that created the biggest stir among Patriots fans, but if the veteran defensive end and recapture some of his past success he just may become a very important one.
Check out a selection of photos from day two of Patriots Mini-Camp which took place on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, June 18, 2014.
Smith spoke to reporters following Wednesday's mini-camp practice at Gillette Stadium and spoke like a savvy veteran who has been around for 11 years. After missing the 2013 season following a torn ACL suffered during the preseason, Smith is anxious to get back in the mix.
"I'm excited. I've played football for the last 15, 16 years," Smith said after taking part fully in the workout. "Last year was tough not being out there and being able to play. It was exciting being part of OTAs and mini-camp and being back out there.
"I'm used to going out and competing every single day. Last year was a little different. I'm just looking forward to the future now and practicing with the team."
Smith spent his entire 10-year NFL career in New Orleans and racked up 67.5 sacks in that time. He's primarily been a right defensive end but has spent a lot of time this spring lining up on the left side. Other than admitting he will play defensive end, Smith wouldn't say what Bill Belichick had in store for him this season.
"There were some other teams but I was familiar with a lot of the coaches, a lot of the players and I felt I would be able to be productive in this scheme," Smith said of his decision to sign in New England. "[Belichick] told me what he brought me in for, what he expected me to do and it was pretty simple and straightforward. Everything has been what I expected. Just getting out there and getting back in the mix.
"Just talking to people I thought this was a good fit for me."
Assuming he's able to make a full recovery from the torn ACL, Smith projects as a third pass rusher with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich likely to remain in full-time roles. Given his past success in getting after the passer, it's a role he could flourish in.
Right now he's not thinking in those terms, however. Less than a month shy of his 33rd birthday (he turns 33 July 4), Smith isn't looking too far ahead.
When asked how long he planned to continue playing, he philosophically dodged the question.
"My love for the game. It's something I love doing. I love competing. I love playing on Sundays. I'm excited about doing it," Smith said. "I have goals. I can't tell you [what they are]. My main goal is to get back in football shape, make sure I know the playbook in and out and being a helpful teammate.
"Life has a lot of different challenges. You take them as you go along."