Harrison Smith on return to Vikings: ‘The No. 1 thing is continuing to try to win here’

The Minnesota Vikings are starting organized team activities this week at TCO Performance Center, and for Harrison Smith, it’s the start of Year 13 in a purple jersey.

Shortly before the start of free agency in March, Smith had made the decision that he wanted to come back to the Vikings. Despite whispers he might retire, he’s ready to play football for at least one more season. But he also knows the clock is ticking.

"No like real epiphany. I had an idea as long as I felt good and we could work things out, I kind of had that inclination. I still feel good. It’s kind of what I’ve been doing the last few, I just kind of take it day by day," Smith said after practice Tuesday. "What I’m doing on the field and how I can be better at that. That kind of simplifies it and it really lets you enjoy the moment more than saying oh this is my last one, making it that. That’s not really my style. I like the action, I like meetings, I like being around the guys. Just being in the present and appreciating the opportunity I got."

Smith is the longest-tenured active player on the Vikings. He made 93 tackles and had three interceptions last season, despite the team going 7-10 and missing the NFC Playoffs. He said there wasn’t one factor in returning to Minnesota. He never gave serious thought about free agency until watching ESPN just days before the league year was to start.

He doesn’t know anything other than playing for the Vikings, and wants to keep it that way. He returned to Minnesota on a restructured contract that gave him a $7 million bonus. He’ll make $1.49 million in base salary this season, and gives the Vikings some cap room.

"The No. 1 thing is continuing to try to win here, that’s why I play the game. I love to compete. I know people outside of here aren’t expecting as much out of us as we do of ourselves," Smith said. "But I think we have the makings of some good things here, and continuing to be a part of that. Really enjoy playing for KO, the Wilfs run a top shelf organization. Between KO, Kwesi, learning under Flores, who’s been awesome. It’s a lot of things."

Smith has made 175 career starts with the Vikings since being drafted out of Notre Dame in 2012. He’s a six-time Pro Bowl pick, and was First Team All-Pro in 2017. He’ll go down as a fan-favorite when his time is done, but for now, will enjoy the now.

"Make a decision and feel good and enjoy it. I think I can add a lot to the organization, so I felt like I should continue," Smith said.