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Denver Broncos' new DE Antonio Smith is more 'crafty' now, maybe ninja-like

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The 33-year-old defensive end who was just picked up by Denver isn't worried that he's one of the older DEs in the league - "I'm getting better, in my opinion."

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Antonio Smith will probably feel at home when he joins the Broncos at Dove Valley next week and sees his previous coaching staff and a former teammate or two in the locker room.

Most recently a defensive end for the Raiders, Smith was with Broncos' new head coach Gary Kubiak at the Texans for five years before playing a one-year stint in Oakland.

And this latest former-Kubiak-recruit on the Broncos roster will be looking for much the same things as the others - a chance to rejuvenate a career.

The veteran defensive end says despite heading into his 12th year in the NFL, he is still improving and believes he can help the Broncos win a Super Bowl.

"I'm picking up new things, and I'm learning things that players and coaches around the league are using to try and stop me. I'm getting better, in my opinion," Smith said Monday. "I am looking forward to having one of my best seasons this upcoming season. My body is in excellent condition."

Smith, who last Friday signed a one-year deal worth $2 million, started his career at the Arizona Cardinals in 2004 and joined the Texans in 2009. He was a Pro Bowler two years later, having logged 6.5 sacks and 19 solo tackles that season. He followed that up in 2012 with 7 sacks and 22 solo tackles.

You know [Kollar] knows what he's talking about. Everything that he gave me and the wisdom he gave me, it was right on point and it helped out a lot.  -Antonio Smith, DE, on defensive line coach Bill Kollar

Smith has been known for his durability over the past 11 seasons as well as his veteran leadership. In the last six years, he played at least 15 games every season and is one of a handful of players in the NFL to register multiple sacks since 2005.

The biggest chunk of Smith's regular-season sack production came while at the Texans under Kubiak, Wade Phillips and Bill Kollar.

And Smith was quick to praise that trio, especially defensive line coach Kollar.

"He will work you. To me, he coaches like a football player. He is excited. He's going to get on you, but at the same time you know he's in it for your best interest," Smith said, describing his early relationship as "rocky" with Kollar. "You know he knows what he's talking about. Everything that he gave me and the wisdom that he gave me, it was right on point and it helped out a lot."

Smith said yesterday he expects to be used on nickel packages and get a lot of reps - particularly because he can play a variety of positions on the field.

"If I am needed to do whatever needs to be done, I can play it," Smith said, adding that quality coaching and excellent technique make that possible. "That comes solely from technique. I just have been blessed to be around some good coaches that have taught me some technique, and then I've mixed that technique with a lot of the things I picked up in the game and some of my physical attributes. Whatever you need me to play, I'm able to play it. That's the mindset that I have."

Another part of Smith's mindset coming in to Denver is to learn from two DEs he considers among the best in the game - Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware - as well as to jump in as a leader if called upon. But he's down with whatever the team needs.

"Anything that I got, I mean anything, anything they need from me - advice, help, they need me to stay after practice with them or whatever it is to teach them something - I'm an open book," Smith said.

Based on some of the Texans TV appearances Smith did with former nose tackle Shaun Cody, it would appear the Broncos are getting a teammate who can also have some fun.

"If you can serve your teammates, they'll listen to you and let you lead them because they know you understand where they're coming from," Smith said.

Although Smith's best year statistically was 2012, he doesn't necessarily gauge his success by stats and Pro Bowl berths. Hurries and hits on the quarterback are sometimes more indicative of a player's impact rather than just counting the sacks.

"I think there was a year or two other than 2012 where I was after the quarterback a lot more than that. That year [2012] I was able to get him down a lot more," said the Oklahoma native.

I think every piece that you need is on this team. I'm excited about giving whatever I can give toward bringing a Super Bowl to Denver. We have a chance to make that last dance.   -Antonio Smith

But Smith is definitely looking to "get after" the quarterback this year. You don't get the nickname "ninja assassin" by hanging out on the field, after all.

"What Coach Kollar told me is that I'll be basically doing the same thing: rushing the passer," said Smith. "[Kollar] watched a lot of film from last year and checked me out to see if I still knew how to get to the passer. That is exactly what he wants me to do - get after the quarterback."

And at age 33, doing that is going to require being "crafty," Smith said. Some may even say "ninja-like."

"The more seasons I get [through], the more crafty I get in pass rush," Smith said. "I'm durable enough and capable enough to change and use any move. I've never had one specific move. I've had specific moves that I've done better than others, but I'm capable of doing all moves."

Just in case, Smith mentioned a few of those crafty moves.

"If I need to hump and I switch to the hump, I use power. If I need to use hands, quick hands and outside moves, I've got that. Juke, inside-outside moves, hands, as long as your hands are working and your feet are still quick very few out there that can get off the ball in a way I can. Anytime you've got that working for you, you're going to be pretty effective and disruptive."

And that's exactly what Smith is predicting for the Broncos this year.

"I definitely see it in this team. I'm excited about giving whatever I can give toward bringing a Super Bowl to Denver," Smith said. "I think that every piece that you need is on this team. ...With a good quarterback and with a good offense, that's what they can do is a dangerous combination. I believe whole-heartedly that we have a chance to making that last dance."

And who isn't going to take a ninja assassin at his word?