"I've come to grips with it," said Smith, who has been limited in practice over the past three weeks. "I'm holding out hope, but that's a reality I've had to deal with (for) months. I've tried optimism, I've tried pessimism. I've tried being happy. I'm just day to day. If I get an opportunity to (play), it will be a blessing.
"Why suit me up and not play when someone else can suit up and help the team win? I think it has to be, 'Can I be productive? Can I contribute?'"
Teammates have praised Smith's dedication during his rehabilitation process, with linebacker James Farrior calling the lineman a "pro's pro."
"He does everything the right way," Farrior told the Tribune-Review. "He doesn't talk a lot of trash. He just goes about his business. Whenever he talks, you know he means it."
Smith, one of the NFL's elite 3-4 defensive ends, acknowledged to the newspaper that his long, often lonely, rehab process has taken a toll on him.
"You feel detached from the team sometimes," Smith said. "Yet to have the guys embrace you, speak highly of you, I can't say enough. I've been with these guys through the best and worst of times in my life.
"I'm not saying I'm absolutely miserable, but from a professional standpoint, it's been hard."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.