BY OBREY BROWN
For the Record Gazette
Derron Smith, whose pro football career was temporarily sidelined after getting cut by the Cleveland Browns last September, has signed with the San Antonio Commanders.
The Commanders, part of the new Alliance of American Football League (AAF), are coached by former San Diego Chargers’ head coach Mike Riley. Smith was traded to the Commanders by the San Diego Fleet, who originally held his rights.
‘’Right now, all eight teams are in San Antonio,” said Smith, a Fresno State product who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2015 and eventually wound up in Cleveland in 2017. “We’re all at different hotels, different (practice) locations.”
Nursing a cold last weekend, Smith feels strongly that he will wind up with a roster spot on the Commanders’ roster when the first game is played six days after this year’s Super Bowl LIII.
“My agent (Chase Callahan) told me about this league last year,” said Smith, who missed the team’s mini-camp due to a knee injury. Noting that the trade between San Diego and San Antonio was held up, Smith said it was because the player he was traded for wound up playing for the Oakland Raiders.
“That kept me (on the Fleet’s roster) for awhile. I didn’t hear anything.”
He is a safety who has played plenty of special teams between 2015-2017.
Smith, 26, the Banning High Hall of Famer who played four NFL seasons, said a few teams reached out to him last season after he got cut by the Browns.
Getting cut wasn’t altogether a surprise, said Smith.
Cleveland’s new general manager John Dorsey, who had pieced together a strong roster in Kansas City before showing up in the Browns’ front office, brought in a new director of player personnel. In most every case, said Smith, “they bring in their own (players).
“It’s hard for guys that are already there.”
Getting cut, Smith said, is no disgrace.
“It’s an accomplishment just getting that far … to go to any NFL training camp,” he said. “You’ve got to look at getting released is not the end. You can’t take it as failure.”
Among the founders of the AAF is former Indianapolis Colts General Manager Bill Polian, an NFL Hall of Famer. Former Pittsburgh Steeler All-Pros Hines Ward and Troy Palumalu are also connected with the league.
The league, announced last June, was developed for players in Smith’s type of situation.
Said Smith: “This is a great opportunity to get back into the NFL, or for guys to get into the league.”
The AAF will conduct a 10-week, 40-game regular season. On Feb. 9, the Orlando Apollos will play the visiting Atlanta Legends.
Smith’s team, the Commanders, will take on San Diego from the Alamodome.
CBS is apparently scheduled to broadcast the AAF opening day, likely to televise one game each week through April.
Riley is among other familiar names who are coaching, including Steve Spurrier (Orlando), Rick Neuheisel (Arizona), Dennis Erickson (Salt Lake), Mike Martz (San Diego), Mike Singletary (Memphis), Brad Childress (Atlanta) and Tim Lewis (Birmingham).
Michael Vick is listed as an assistant coach in Atlanta.
San Diego’s general manager is Daryl Johnston, the fullback on three Super Bowl championships with the Dallas Cowboys.
Smith, who admits he still has to make the final roster, will be on display when his team plays at San Diego on Feb. 24.
“I’m definitely not finished,” said Smith. “For me to play three years (in the NFL) is an achievement. I can still play.”