By Tim Graham
Brad Smith has been a gadget player since the Buffalo Bills signed him. The erstwhile quarterback ran for a touchdown, caught two touchdown passes and returned a kickoff for a touchdown this season.
He doesn't know how new Bills coach Doug Marrone plays to deploy him or whether to report to quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett or receivers coach Ike Hilliard.
"I have no idea," Smith said with a chuckle. "Shoot, I'm sure I'll be talking to both of them at some point."
Previous coach Chan Gailey declared last summer Smith would be the Bills' third-string quarterback then moved Smith to receiver. Smith had 14 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns. He also piloted the Wildcat package and averaged 8.3 yards a carry.
Smith still considers himself a quarterback, but he wants to do something else more passionately: win.
"Whatever Coach Marrone says," Smith said. "I'll block. I'll tackle. I'll do whatever, as long as we're playing this time next year. That's all that matters to me."
Smith has had an interesting offseason so far. Smith learned this week he was a finalist for the Bart Starr Award for "outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community." The nomination recognizes his work with the True Foundation, which he started in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.
Smith also is pumped about the Bills' recent coaching hires, particularly defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Smith is the only member of the Bills' roster who was with the New York Jets when Pettine was their defensive coordinator.
In the two years before Smith signed with the Bills, the Jets made it to the AFC Championship Game because of their defense.
"I love Mike," Smith said. "Just knowing what he brings to the table and his mentality and his schemes, I was ecstatic. The only bad thing is trying to figure out what in the world you're doing [with a new system]. But with the personnel we got, I'm excited to see it.
"He's been under Rex Ryan for a long time. He has that mindset of a borderline defensive genius, knowing matchups and putting his guys in good situations and knowing how to motivate them and help them understand it. He doesn't have Rex's personality; nobody does. But he's an aggressive guy."
Smith also has noticed an overall aggression from the Bills' front office since their 6-10 season came to an end.
"I'm excited," Smith said. "It's a fresh start for everyone in the organization. [Bills President] Russ Brandon's done a great job. He's been aggressive with everything he's doing and the people he's bringing in and communicating with the guys.
"I was at the facility the other day and had the chance to talk with Coach Marrone. His personality is great. He's communicating with the guys, letting them know what's going on. The assistants are reaching out to the guys and letting everybody know we're in it together and that we're going to build trust in each other."