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Raiders CB Sean Smith sees slide in practice reps

NAPA, Calif. — Sean Smith will collect $9.5 million in 2017.

That is his pay, regardless of whether he’s on the field or on the bench. The amount is split between a $5 million salary, $4.25 million roster bonus and $250,000 workout bonus. Each sum is fully guaranteed to him.

What isn’t guaranteed is his play.

Owning a starter’s salary and a starter’s role are two separate matters. Smith has the first. He must earn the second, a fact that has become increasingly apparent recently during training camp. After a slow start to the summer, the Raiders cornerback was given a lesser role in each of the past three practices.

Veteran cornerback TJ Carrie is working as the new starter in the base defense opposite David Amerson.

Breon Borders, an undrafted rookie cornerback from Duke, is guarding the slot in the nickel sub-package.

On Friday and Saturday, Smith worked with the second-team defense at outside corner. His body language on the field did not radiate enjoyment with the assignment. On Sunday, the Raiders unveiled something new, featuring Smith as a linebacker in the Raiders’ dime sub-package.

Smith was not made available for comment.

“Obviously, everybody wants to be ‘the guy,’ and we love that,” coach Jack Del Rio said Sunday. “We love that about our guys. We also understand that there’s a certain amount of competition that is going to take place out here. Really, I am a big believer in you get what you earn. As a team you do. As a player you do. And so it’s just there for us to decide as we go through camp and we get ready for the season.

“But in the meantime right now, we’re just rolling a few of the guys through there and making it ultra-competitive. …I told the guys when we opened (camp), ‘I don’t care how you got here. It doesn’t really matter if you’re undrafted, a high pick, a low pick or if you weren’t picked or if you’re a veteran.’ Certainly a veteran, we’ve seen a certain amount before, but still we want to make it competitive. We want to make the competition real. That’s what we’re having.”

Smith, 30, has proven resilient in the past.

He had a horrible start last season, by his own concession struggling in Weeks 1 and 2 like he’d never had before in his career. But he bounced back in Week 3 with a strong performance against the Titans. The showing included a fourth-quarter interception that very well could’ve iced a road win had the Raiders not committed a turnover shortly thereafter.

Ultimately, Smith considers 2016 his worst individual season of football.

It followed a four-year, $38 million deal that lured the free agent to the Bay Area; he spent the previous three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. Notably, Smith displayed some toughness during the second half of 2016. He suffered a torn labrum in Week 8 against the Buccaneers but missed just one game, deferring his shoulder surgery until after the season ended in January.

Del Rio downplayed Smith’s reduced role.

At least, he highlighted how others on the roster have rotated at different spots. And this is true. But aside from the end of Friday’s practice when star left guard Kelechi Osemele spectated as Denver Kirkland finished in his place, no one of Smith’s profile — or paycheck — has seen his role diminish to such degree. Osemele was back with the starters the next day.

The Raiders have an off-day Monday. It comes at a favorable time for Smith, who surely will spend some of it reflecting on the past three days. He also can look ahead.

Tuesday will offer a new chance to earn his play.

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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