DE Za’Darius Smith (5.22.24)

So we got to start with the hair. What went into that?

“Just woke up one morning, man, and thought I was ready for a change. I said that now that I’m 30, you know, I want to go with a new look. I’ve been talking to my parents, you know, my mom and my kids, and they were like agreeing with me, so I’m glad I did it. I look better, look younger, look slimmer, so I’m happy about it for sure.”


What have your teammates been saying?

“They like the new look. They say I look younger, so I’m happy with it. You know, I’m not the (uncle) anymore as they, you know, classify me as, but I’m just happy to be back, man, with the team and just getting started with OTAs and just getting ready for training camp as it’s come upon us.”


How’d they react when you walked into the room, though?

“Ah man, they didn’t know who I was, but a lot of people had jokes, you know, but, it’s all love, man. Like I said, this is a brotherhood. You know, you can come in how you want to and be yourself here, so just happy to do that, man, and just excited about the new haircut.”


What was the chief motivation for you to re-sign here?

“The culture, the chemistry with this team, man, everything. The brotherhood, man, the team camaraderie. I had a chance to go other places, but I felt like I didn’t want that, man. I felt like we didn’t get to where we wanted to last year, man. And we got something that we need to finish here. Hopefully we can get that done this year.”


When you look at the way the defense was in year one, obviously you finished at one in a lot of metrics, but obviously the playoff game not being representative of what you guys think you are. What do you think is like one level of improvement, one area of improvement for you guys to really, you know, make that run?

“I said more time, man. Like I said, going into year two now under (Jim) Schwartz’s defense, everybody can now, you know, get a little more comfortable. You know, for myself, coming from a 3-4 system, I was always a guy who had to stand up, you know, so just being down in the three point now, not really looking at formations was something new for me. But now I’m starting to get the hang of it, man. And as you can see this year, you see a better Z. I can tell you that much.”


How much do you think, you know, take pride when you see Myles (Garrett) go out and win DPOY. How much do you guys as a defense, especially as a defensive line takes pride when it’s like you know, it was him and his talent?

“I mean, we said that before we even came in for training camp that he was going to get that. We saw that, you know, from how he was working and preparing before practice and just the little things that he was doing. And as we all know, he’s a freak athlete, man. It’s big for him, but we all are happy for him. Hopefully we can run it back this year, man, and hopefully somebody else on the defense can get DPOY this year. But much love to him. I talked to him and hopefully he’ll be back soon. Talk to Dalvin (Tomlinson). Talk to guys like Shelby (Harris), man. So, hopefully everybody will be back soon to where this thing can get going.”


Why do you think you guys came up short in that Houston game?

“I don’t know, man, but I know something coach told me earlier, man, we not even going to talk about the past, so we’re going to focus on the future. How about that? Yeah. Yeah. That was a great answer, right?”


As you’ve gone on in your career, how much have you adjusted yourself as you go through this offseason program and fine-tuned what you need and how different is it for you now maybe compared to 5-10 years ago?

“I’ll say doing the little things, fundamentals. If you, continue to do that before and after practice, man, you just better in your craft. I know, I got a coach who always told me ‘If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.’ So for me to be able to come back out here and just get (to) work, you know, we got a new D line coach. We’re learning new things. A bunch of young guys, man, who want to learn. So it’s all good for us in our D line room and hopefully we could come out and be a number one defensive line this year.”


So what are your impressions of rookie Mike Hall then? I mean, it looks like he’s really detail oriented, and what are your impressions?

“I like him, man. Younger cat, man coming in, got manners, man. And he’s wanting to learn. For real, he’s the first one in the meeting rooms before we get in there, so that’s a big thing. But I also told him today that we didn’t have any snacks, so for sure he got to make that happen tomorrow for us.”


Some of the new faces that you guys have added on the defense. For you as a veteran, how excited are you to kind of work with them and where you saying to them already?

“Well, very excited. For me, you know, going into year ten, a lot of people don’t get a chance to make it to year ten. But for me, man, it’s just being that leader now. Growing up around guys like Terrell Suggs and CJ Moseley, Eric Weddle, you know, I learned a lot from those guys. So hopefully for me now, as a vet, can be able to pass that down to the younger guys. As were just talking about.”


What can you tell us about (Jordan) Hicks? You played with him in Minnesota.

“Yeah. Great guy, man. You know, we actually came out together in 2015. So for me to go to the Vikings, man, and for him to sign with the Vikings was big, because I think at that time, we was going into year eight together. But for him and his two years with the Vikings, and, you know, I only played one there, but it was just that team camaraderie, man. He created that brotherhood because, you know, he’s the one with the mic. He’s the one that got to get the calls and got to talk to everybody. So for him to be that opening man and being a big brother from just coming here since day one means a lot, man, and hopefully he can hold it down for us in the middle.”


How nice was it to feel wanted? For the browns to want to bring you back after you got traded, after Green Bay (Packers)?

“I mean, for one, I’m not a sorry football player. And for two, you know, I’ve been a lot of places, man, and made a name for myself. Being wanted, I’m not gonna say that is a thing, but for me to come back, you know, like I said, I had other options to go Miami (Dolphins), Washington (Commanders). I could have went anywhere, but I wanted to come back here because I see something in this team that a lot of people just don’t see, man, for being in the locker room, and I was talking about the team camaraderie, man. If we keep that close and keep the togetherness, man, we can go far this year, hopefully.”


Z, how nice is it for you guys to see Deshaun (Watson) back out there? And how much are you looking forward to really kind of getting after it a little bit with at least just the speed of the game and helping him get ready?

I mean, we’re all excited, you know, we get number one quarterback back, but, you know, we got backups now, Jameis (Winston). We got the younger guys, too. But to have him back is big. You know, for him to get his confidence back. I know that he went through an injury last year, and, you know, coming back from injuries could be hard for a lot of people. For me, myself, I went through a back injury, like you said, being wanted. I thought at that time, career was over with. But for him, I’m just seeing the confidence, the smiles on his face every time I come to work in the morning. And just that leadership on the offensive side of the ball, when something’s not going right, he’ll basically stop the play like, come on, let’s start over. So, to have that leadership at our quarterback position is big for us. And hopefully, like I said, we can go far this year.”

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