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Smith.jpg
Alfonso Smith during OTAs. (Photo by Craig Grialou)
Beanie Wells has yet to practice, while Ryan Williams has yet to go through a full practice during three weeks of OTAs.

The same script is expected to be followed this week when the Cardinals hold their mandatory mini-camp with five practices over three days.

With the team's top two running backs still recovering from knee injuries, the door has opened for 25-year-old Alfonso Smith.

"I'm putting a lot of extra pressure on myself to really be that guy in case those guys aren't ready in the preseason or at the beginning of the regular season," said Smith, an undrafted rookie free agent in 2010.

"This," said head coach Ken Whisenhunt referring to Smith's increased repetitions, "will give him an opportunity to compete with less reps in training camp when Beanie and Ryan get back. And that's what it's all about."

Last year, Smith saw action in 15 of 16 games, mainly on special teams.

But with Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling in and out of the lineup (and Williams missing the entire season) because of injuries, Smith found his number called in almost half the games he played.

"Every week it was maybe I would be starting," said Smith, who had 30 carries for 102 yards a touchdown. "I never really knew if I was going to play a lot or if I wasn't going to play at all."

That uncertainty, Smith admitted, was tough, but not unlike his time at Kentucky, where he made only nine starts in 49 career games.

"It's a little tough at times because you have to stay in your playbook," he said. "There are times when you're really thinking that you're going to get in and you study hard all week and then you don't see any plays on the field. It's kind of hard to get over that."

Whisenhunt has been pleased with what he's seen out of Smith. But like with all of his players this offseason, he will reserve judgement until training camp.

"[Smith] does a good job hitting the holes, knowing the offense, knowing where to go in his check-downs, but until you get a chance to see him actually carry the ball, until he has to step up and block a linebacker or make his play in a protection, then that's where you're really going to get a chance to judge him."

Wells and Williams are both expected to be able to do more when the team heads to Flagstaff in July, which will make it that much more difficult for Smith to catch the coaches' attention.

"I'm not really worried about that," said Smith. "I can only control what I can control.

"I know it's a physical league. I know one, two, three running backs are probably going to see the field. Guys are going to get dinged up. I don't want to say it but it's going to happen. It's football.

"There's going to be a time when I'm going to be called on. I just got to be ready."

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