KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Sean Smith couldn't wait to start his touchdown dance and, really, could you blame him? The Kansas City Chiefs' most accomplished cornerback, Smith had been demoted during spring practice to second team.
But here he was, on his first play of Thursday night's preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals after replacing starter Ron Parker, making an interception. Smith then ran alone down the sideline and began the festivities well before he got to the end zone, which he eventually did to complete his 36-yard touchdown.
"It's never too early," Smith would say later, after the Chiefs completed a 41-39 victory, "to celebrate."
Smith will find out Saturday when the Chiefs return to training camp whether he was also celebrating a return to the starting lineup. But such a move wouldn't be a surprise, given the way Smith and Parker played.
While Smith made one of the game's big plays, Parker allowed one. He was burned by Cincinnati's AJ Green for a 53-yard gain and also was penalized twice for illegal contact, though one of the calls was declined.
Smith also picked up a penalty but more than made up for it with his big interception return.
"Beautiful play," said coach Andy Reid, who wouldn't commit to Smith's return to the starting lineup. "Played physical. Had the one penalty but he had a huge play there. He's been working his tail off."
The Chiefs need Smith in their starting lineup. He's big and can be physical with opposing receivers, a must in the Chiefs' defensive system. He's a much better option for the Chiefs than Parker, a journeyman who joined the Chiefs off waivers last year.
The Chiefs left themselves thin at cornerback when they released veteran Brandon Flowers during the offseason. They need Smith's veteran presence in their lineup more than ever and shouldn't waste any more time making that happen.