ALAMEDA -- Alex Smith was never a Raider. The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback has played the team only twice in eight-plus seasons, yet he’s as familiar with the Raiders as any team after spending so much time across the Bay.
Smith spent eight tumultuous years with the San Francisco 49ers before being traded to Kansas City in the offseason, adding dimensions to this AFC West matchup.
Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium is both a pivotal division game and a chance for Smith to play in front of Bay Area fans.
“I’m excited for this. I’ve played a lot of football in the Bay Area, pretty close to Oakland,” Smith said. “I’m familiar with them after being in the area so long. I’m excited about it. I’m pumped.”
We all know about Smith’s unceremonious exit, that he lost a starting job to young Colin Kaepernick during a Super Bowl run and was deemed expendable enough to ship out of town.
Smith has taken the high road in regards to how he was cast off, but satisfaction can be gleaned from the Chiefs' 5-0 start.
Vindication? Not quite yet.
“It’s five games in,” Smith said. “I’ve played long enough and it’s still so early in the season. We’ve done a good job to this point of positioning ourselves. Talk to me in December.”
The Raiders have to deal with a cool, confident version of Alex Smith on Sunday morning. Jason Tarver met a different version years ago. The Raiders defensive coordinator coached 49ers outside linebackers during Smith’s first six seasons. Tarver watched him grow as a player amid the pressures of being the No. 1 overall pick. Smith was under fire despite dealing with numerous offensive schemes, and Tarver believes he dealt with difficult circumstances well.
“We drafted him as a very young man,” Tarver said. “He is a great person and he handled himself professionally in difficult times. I was there during much of his growing-up process, and I know that he’s a great young man. He’s overcome a lot of adversity and I’m proud of him for that.
“He’s developed into an excellent quarterback. He’s done some great things, and it will be a real test for our defense to play against a quarterback who makes great decisions on a consistent basis.”