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Safety First

Eric Smith may not speak for all players, but he said that free agents like himself need to protect themselves during the NFL lockout.

“It’s tough, especially for those of us who aren’t under contract,” said the New York Jets safety Wednesday morning by phone. “If you get hurt there is no IR, there is no PUP, you won’t get signed.”

Smith initially made some comments to the Washington Post on the issue of player safety, and has read some feedback from fans who think players should go all out in workouts, even during a lockout where they are not being paid.

“I’ve seen some of the feedback, 'What’s wrong with him,'” Smith said. “They don’t look at the big picture. If I’m going 100 percent and I break an ankle or tear an ACL, I won’t play next year. I’ll have to rehab on my own and pay for that.”

He said that during the Jets informal workouts in New Jersey a few weeks ago, players realized the risks and took the intensity level down.

“We really backed it down once we got there,” Smith said.

He said the offense kept it up, but in the interest of safety the defense played hard until the ball was in the air and then relaxed a bit to avoid inadvertent contact. Jets tight end Dustin Keller is under contract, but agreed the potential for injury during those workouts is real.

“That’s definitely something you have to be careful of since we aren’t protected if someone were to get hurt,” Keller said.

Smith stayed with his family this summer in Ohio, and said it was nice to get the time to spend with them since he is usually able to get away for just a week or two at a time, but now he is back at his house in New Jersey.

Smith isn’t sure if he will be a Jet next season -- it’s been so long since he has been able to speak to the team that he doesn’t have a real sense of their intentions -- but if so, he doesn’t think having training camp in Florham Park this year will preclude team bonding.

“I’m sure we’ll bond here,” Smith said.