The 24-year-old running back is back with the Lions after being signed along with guard Leonard Davis at the season's halfway point. Detroit drafted Smith in the third round in 2008 and he ran for nearly 1,000 yards and caught 39 passes as a rookie. The Lions let him go this past offseason, but he has earned another chance with the team.
On Tuesday, Smith was back in the same corner of his old locker room, eager to try to contribute to a team that's very much in the race for a playoff spot. Detroit (6-2) will play at NFC North rival Chicago on Sunday after having a bye last week.
"I've been away from the game for eight weeks," Smith said. "It humbles you. Second chances -- you don't want to mess that up."
Smith's career seemed promising enough when he made an immediate contribution in his first two seasons. But late in 2009, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He came back slowly last season and played in six games, running for 51 yards in a win over Washington, then had a season-ending thumb injury in November.
"We hadn't really planned on signing anybody, but Kevin looked so good -- ran well, moved well, was in great shape, and you know, has been a productive player for us when he's been on the field," coach Jim Schwartz said. "I think one of the silver linings in this was it gave his body time to heal."
The 33-year-old Davis has started all 155 games he has played during his NFL career, but was cut by Dallas before this season, part of a handful of moves that gave the Cowboys room under the salary cap.
One benefit of joining the Lions is that Davis won't have to face Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch and the rest of Detroit's powerful defensive line in a game. The Cowboys beat the Lions 35-19 last season, but it wasn't easy.
"I think it was probably the best front four that we played against the whole year," the 6-foot-6, 355-pound Davis said. "Most teams, they would only have one good guy. ... They were solid across the board."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press