Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 8/8/12
MANKATO, Minn. Rookie safety Harrison Smith wasn't handed a starting spot by the Minnesota Vikings entering training camp despite being the 29th overall pick in April's draft and a talented player at a position of need.Smith is having to earn his way in his first NFL training camp and he's showing he's not going to back down from the challenge or his veteran teammates.The 6-foot-2 safety from Notre Dame has started receiving more snaps with the starting unit in practice this week and has had two run-ins with Minnesota star receiver Percy Harvin. The second one, in Wednesday's afternoon practice, ended up resulting in the first skirmish of Vikings' training camp. Smith downplayed the incident and denied he was trying to make a point as a rookie newcomer."I don't really think that implies to coming in here," Smith said of showing he won't back down. "I just think that applies to life. I don't think I was standing my ground. It's just football. That stuff happens."But Smith is also showing he plays the game with an edge. For the second time in two days, Harvin had words with the rookie. The first incident came Tuesday when Harvin beat Smith inside for a touchdown reception and was taken to the ground by Smith during the catch. Harvin, an emotional player in his own right, popped up excitedly and stared at Smith offering a few words.Tuesday, Harvin caught another pass in the middle and was met by Smith. A skirmish started and receiver Jerome Simpson came in as well, pushing Smith before things could be broken up. Training camp skirmishes are nothing new, but Minnesota had avoided them through a week and a half of practicing in pads in the afternoon heat.With their first preseason game two days away, it's not a surprise tempers finally flared."It's the game of football, it's not really a passive sport," Smith said. "It's an aggressive sport played by aggressive people. So, that's what happens."Smith is showing an aggressive side, especially since the pads went on. The Vikings traded back into the first round of April's draft after taking left tackle Matt Kalil with the No. 4 overall pick. With Smith still on the board at No. 29, Minnesota felt he could be the answer at safety after having several players rotate through the positions in the past few years. Smith was believed to be an all-around safety, able to help in run and pass defense. Through the first two weeks of training camp, defensive coordinator Alan Williams felt Smith had shown what he can do against the pass. Getting a chance to work with the starting unit more in the past three days, he's been showing his physical side."I saw it in our OTAs and it's beginning to show up a little bit more with the pads on," coach Leslie Frazier said. "We need that. We need that from him. We need a physical, tough safety of his size and his range. He seems like a guy who can provide that."And a day after commenting about how the players have avoided going after each other, Smith was right in the middle of Wednesday's skirmish."He hasn't blinked," Frazier said of Smith earning first-team reps. "He's kind of fit in. We wanted to see how he'd respond being in there with Kevin (Williams) and those guys, and so far he's responded well. We're going to give him some opportunities on Friday night, but he hasn't shrunk back. He's stepped up and done well when he's been with the first team."He's had to earn those first-team snaps, just the way his coaches want and the way Smith expected. Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond ended last season as the starters and had taken the reps with the starting unit for the first two weeks of camp.Smith is having to prove himself, but Williams likes what he sees in the versatile rookie."Right now he is better at everything than I really thought," Williams said. "He's a tall guy, and usually tall guys are a little bit leggy and may not be quick-footed. But right now he's excelling at the pass coverage. We put him on tight end and he's been extremely effective. We'll wait to see how he does in the run game, we haven't had any opportunities, which is one of the things I was talking about in terms of the reps are limited. We have to put him in some other opportunities to see how he supports the run and what he does there. It may be the first preseason game until we really know when everything is live."When games go live, it might just fit into Smith's aggressiveness. He's been like most rookies at camp, going along quietly, working and learning, until this week, when he's shown more of an edge in his demeanor.Working against players like Harvin only fuels Smith."He's an unbelievable athlete, unbelievable player, got a lot of speed, great hands," Smith said. "Having to go against guys like that and maybe getting beat every now and again, kind of lights a fire that I've got to get better and better every day. There's no better way to do that than going against guys like Percy."Smith and the Vikings are ready to go against someone other than teammates too. After two weeks, Minnesota is ready for its first preseason game Friday at San Francisco when Smith can really let loose."Definitely, after a while you kind of get sick of competing against each other," Smith said. "We're supposed to be teammates. So, you want to hit somebody, but you don't really have a choice." Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Vlade Divac indicates DeMarcus Cousins’ agents killed other deal

Report: Julius Thomas traded to Dolphins

Joe Mixon likely to go undrafted in April?

Belichick officially updates boat’s name to ‘VII Rings’

Canseco warns humanity about robot takeover in Twitter rant

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Rick Ankiel drank vodka before pitching in 2000 NLDS

Kings throw shade at Cousins in press release announcing trade

Report: Jets tampered with Revis through private phones, secret meetings

Calipari shoots down talk of him leaving Kentucky for Pelicans

Report: Carmelo prefers trade to Clippers or Lakers

Report: Kings blowing up roster, putting Darren Collison, Ben McLemore on block

The 'Did the Kings just make the Pelicans into a super team?' quiz

The guard tandems you'd want in a 2-on-2 tournament

We got our hands on the new Nintendo Switch, here are our first impressions

Top 10 second basemen in baseball for 2017

Teams and players who could be dealing at the NBA trade deadline

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Too much to Process: Can Simmons match the Embiid hype?

There will never be another Dirk Nowitzki

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

Is the NBA All-Star Game worth saving?

Movies you can stream now to get your football fix

The Rewind: Michael Jordan's last All-Star Game

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 'Did the Kings just make the Pelicans into a super team?' quiz

The guard tandems you'd want in a 2-on-2 tournament

We got our hands on the new Nintendo Switch, here are our first impressions

Top 10 second basemen in baseball for 2017

Teams, players who could be dealing at the NBA trade deadline

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher with 200 or more wins since 1961

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

There will never be another Dirk Nowitzki

Movies you can stream now to get your football fix

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker