Eric Smith was one of the few players in the Jets locker room last season without a nickname. The soft-spoken safety is content to sit in the corner of the room, outside his locker and quietly watch as his teammates talk, shout and play pranks on each other.
But now, Smith has a nickname. Just call him “Continental Shelf.”
The nickname came about this offseason as Smith, set to enter his sixth year in the league, added 12 pounds of muscle to his frame. Smith has spent the past couple weeks training with teammates, including Bart Scott and Jerricho Cotchery at TEST Sports Clubs. TEST’s owner Brian Martin points to Smith’s trapezius muscle and gives it a squeeze. The Jets safety shows the line of muscle around the player’s neck.
“It’s like the continental shelf, right here,” Martin said laughing. “It’s unbelievable. His teammates can’t believe how big he’s gotten this offseason. But this right here (pointing again), it is the continental shelf.”
The added muscle and re-dedication to the weight room comes at a good time for Smith, now an unrestricted free agent. Last season, Smith had a career high with 54 tackles and played a large role in the Jets defense after a midseason injury to fellow safety Jim Leonhard shelved the player for the rest of the season. He was one of just a handful of the team’s free agents to participate in the team’s voluntary camp at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, N.J. in early June.
“It was a good opportunity for me to get some work in. Love these guys,” Smith told Metro. “I miss being around these guys and it was good to get football work in.”
Smith is hopeful to be a part of the Jets next year and his participation in the voluntary camp last month is perhaps a good sign to fans that he wants to be in green this season.
“I’d definitely like to be here, be a Jet next year. Especially with the defense we had last year,” Smith said, wearing a green “Camp Lockout” shirt from last month’s camp. “They’d like to have me back, and I’d like to be back.”
Smith said that he spoke with general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan after the loss in the AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh about his future with the team. The “Continental Shelf” would like to shore things up for the Jets secondary again this season, but he’s willing to explore his options if need be.
“They’d love to have me back but they don’t know the dynamics yet. It’s a big offseason for the team,” Smith said. “There are a lot of free agents and they don’t know who is coming back, who they are re-signing or can re-sign. A lot of things need to work out so we’ll see what happens.”
Follow Jets beat reporter Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.
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