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With A Need, Alex Smith Filling Blocking Role

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While the Redskins already have Jordan Reed -- an elite pass catcher -- and youngster Je'Ron Hamm, the team is hoping Alex Smith can come along quickly and be an asset as a blocker at tight end.

It's been nearly four months since Alex Smith was on an NFL roster, but the 11-year veteran is ready to go on a Washington Redskins team that desperately needs his services.

On Tuesday, Smith signed on the dotted line with the Redskins, providing an injury-depleted tight end group a much needed veteran blocker.

"Basically they had a need," Smith, a Stanford product, said of how the process started. "Unfortunately, [Derek] Carrier went down on Sunday, guess they reached out to a few people. I had some familiarity with Coach [Jay] Gruden already, being in Cincinnati so it's a pretty easy transition as far as the plays, a lot of similar plays and terminology, so, it aids me in that aspect of trying to get out there faster."

That was one of the keys in bringing in a player this late into the season.

While there are certainly younger tight ends still out there on the market, Smith, 33, has plenty of experience not only with Gruden -- who he also knew during his first four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- but just in the NFL in general.

Still, there are some challenges of returning to action after not being on an NFL team since the New Orleans Saints released him in September.

"Wasn't too bad, just trying to get my feet under me, have been able to work out over this time, so I've stayed in semi-football shape," Smith said of his first practice with the Redskins on Wednesday. "You never quite get in football shape 'til you get out there on the practice field, so just trying to get my feet under me as quickly as possible, and it's pretty seamless actually."

A former 2005 draft pick of the Buccaneers, Smith has also appeared in regular season action with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.

While Jordan Reed has had a breakout season in the passing game this year, the team had a void filling the blocking tight end role.

The Redskins were using tackles Tom Compton and Ty Nsekhe at tight end even before Carrier when down with a season-ending torn ACL and MCL last Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

"Very important," Smith said of being a sound blocker in Gruden's scheme. "We have to run the ball. That's starts the key to our offense, is running the ball and the pass, play action, all that stuff comes off of that. So I know we've had to have a special lineman in there while that creates some advantages in the running game, it limits us in the pass a little bit. I'm able to step in and aid in that process. That's what I love to do."

The Washington Redskins on Tuesday announced the signing of 11-year veteran tight end Alex Smith. Take a look at his career through the years.

Gruden said on Wednesday that Smith was able to step "right in here and knows all the terminology already."

"We needed somebody fast," Gruden said. "He's a guy that can play multiple positions for us already — that's the main reason. He's big and can handle the in-line blocking, catch a ball and do some good things. What we're asking him to do… Jordan [Reed] is our tight end, we still have Tom Compton with the ability to line up in the big stuff and then he'll be part of the offense also a little bit."

Smith began his career being a pretty consistent threat in the passing game, as he had 11 touchdowns in his four seasons in Tampa Bay.

Over time, though, his game evolved.

"When I left Tampa, went over to Philly and then Cleveland -- was a big special teams role player guy there -- that's where kind of where my roles shifted and I just embraced it. I've been fortunate to be in this league for 10 years and you have to adjust over time. There's some guys who can do one thing, but I was asked to do several other things, I think that's what allowed me to stay around for so long."

Smith added: "Once you see some of those familiar plays, it makes it a lot easier to feel like you can go out there and play instead of thinking and trying to worry about your assignment. So in that aspect, I was able to just go out there play and just try and get my feet under me."

While he doesn't know how much he'll play on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, Smith will be ready for whatever situations he'll be tasked with.

"Just trying to get up to speed as fast as I can," Smith said. "Wherever they call me, wherever they need me, I'm trying to make sure I'm ready to go."

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