Steve Smith Sr.'s first year out of football has been a learning experience on many levels.
Smith is learning the nuances of working in TV as a NFL Network analyst. The job has made him realize how much he didn't know about NFL's front offices despite playing 16 years in the league. Mostly, though, Smith is learning how to deal with being away from the game as a newly minted ex-player.
"I played football for 22-23 years (dating back to his high school days), Smith said. "I always had some schedule where I was told to be during the season. I no longer have that. That's been different."
Smith is adjusting to a new life after retiring at the end of the 2017 season. The standout receiver, who had 14,731 receiving yards (seventh best all-time) for Carolina and Baltimore, is working as an analyst on NFL Network's NFL GameDay Morning, which begins Sundays at 7 a.m. ET. He teams with Michael Robinson, Colleen Wolfe and Mike Garafolo from NFL Films' studios in Mt. Laurel, N.J., for the 7-9 a.m. portion of the show. Smith then contributes remotely once the show shifts to the Los Angeles studios at 9 a.m.
A high energy guy, Smith, 38, admits slowing down has been a challenge.
"The first month was exciting, but after three months, I felt like I should be doing something," Smith said. "Every day started to feel like 'Ground Hog Day.' Now I'm learning how to embrace it, enjoy it, see it as a blessing."
Smith, though, does feel fortunate to have an outlet that not only keeps him busy, but also connected to the NFL. He wanted to start his education in his new analyst role immediately by insisting that he attend the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
"They said, 'You want to go to the combine? Really?'" Smith said. "I said, 'Yes, I want to be able to talk to the coaches and general managers. I want to learn their criteria for making their picks.'"
Smith said it was an eye-opening experience. It gave him new insights into the behind-the-scenes of how teams are put together.
The education continued when Smith did a tour of training camps. He recalled a conversation with Todd Bowles in which the New York Jets coach "shared things with me I never would have gotten as a player."
"In the beginning, it was like, 'Man, there's so much I don't know,'" Smith said. "I really have a better understanding of the administrative part of the game. As a player, you don't get the opportunity to understand what's going on. The front office wants to hide it from you. You're an employee. Working with NFL Network really has opened my eyes."
Once the season started, Smith placed an emphasis on watching film.
"You can't just say New Orleans won by 15 points and Drew Brees put up 27 fantasy points. Great job," Smith said. "What did they do? How did they do it? You've got to watch the film to know how they were successful."
"Some people go, 'Why is that significant?'" Smith said.
Fast forward to Week 4. Smith said Carolina exploited the Patriots defense last week by operating out of a similar offense.
"That film tells me when I look at the New England Patriots, they don't do a good job of handling tight formations," Smith said. "I know New England is struggling on defense. The question is why? I see a trend. The film is talking to me. That's what film does."
Having that knowledge is one thing, but being able to explain it to viewer in concise sound bites is another. Like all new TV analysts, Smith is learning the challenge and art of saying a lot in a little period of time.
"It's not easy," Smith said.
Smith does stand out on the show thanks to his attire. Last week, he wore an egg shell color suit. He says his wife, Angie, is his "stylist."
But at the end of the day, Smith knows his new job is more about substance, not style.
"People keep asking me, 'What do they tell me to say?'" Smith said. "They don't tell me anything. All they say is, 'Whatever you say, be prepared to own it.'"
Tucked: The latest Timeline examines one of the most controversial plays in NFL history. The Tuck Rule will air after Thursday���s New England-Tampa Bay game on NFL Network. Narrated by actor Michael Chiklis, the film looks what happened with 1:50 remaining in the 2001 Oakland-New England playoff game.
Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson sacked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, resulting in an apparent game-sealing fumble. Yet, the officials ruled it was an incomplete pass, therefore giving the ball back to the Patriots who went on to win in overtime. The result of that game -- and the call which allowed the Patriots to retain possession -- would prove to change the course of two franchises and create aftershocks that are still felt to this day.
"I saw their sideline. Charlie Weis, (Bill) Belichick -- all of them. Brady. They knew it was a fumble. We all knew it was a fumble." said former Raiders coach Jon Gruden in the one-hour show.
A life: Wes Welker will be the subject of A Football Life, Friday at 9 p.m. on NFL Network. The one-hour show features interviews with Welker, former teammates Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, former head coaches Bill Belichick and Mike Leach, family members and more.
First game: Amazon was pleased with the numbers for its Thursday night debut. Last week's Chicago-Green Bay game, which was streamed on Amazon Prime Video along with airing on CBS and NFL Network, had an average audience of 372,000 viewers on Prime, a 53 percent increase vs. the initial TNF "tri-cast" game on Twitter, last year's streaming partner. The average viewing duration was 55 minutes -- 2.5 times more than last year.
Prime members streamed the game in 187 countries and territories, including Anguilla, Burundi, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Gambia, Ghana, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Morocco, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uzbekistan.
Extra points: Chris Mortensen will interview Peyton Manning on ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown. The Indianapolis Colts will retire his No. 18 and unveil a statue in his honor. Also on Countdown, Jac Collinsworth will tell the untold story of Eli Manning's trade from San Diego to the New York Giants during the 2004 NFL Draft.
Week 5 announcer lineup
CBS/NFL Network/Amazon Prime Video, 8:25 p.m. ET
New England at Tampa Bay: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo
CBS 1:00 p.m. ET
Buffalo at Cincinnati: Tom McCarthy, Steve Beuerlein, Steve Tasker
Tennessee at Miami: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
CBS 4 p.m. ET
Seattle at LA Rams: Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta
Baltimore at Oakland: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
FOX 1:00 p.m ET
San Francisco at Indianapolis: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman
Carolina at Detroit: Kenny Albert, Charles Davis
Arizona at Philadelphia: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston
FOX 4:25 p.m. ET
Green Bay at Dallas: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman
NBC 8:30 p.m. ET
Kansas City at Houston: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
ESPN 8:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota at Chicago: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden