Linebacker Jaylon Smith has always been a lightning rod for criticism, especially after singing a long-term contract and the defense struggled mightily in 2020.
But Smith has a way of shrugging off any negativity.
In fact, when asked on Saturday about being bothered by criticism, he gave a couple of examples from arguably the two best NBA players of all time.
"I mean, I don't care who you are, you're going to have criticism," Smith said. "Michael Jordan had criticism. LeBron James, some of the best players in the world have criticism. That's just a part of the game. But you got to control what you can control. And for me it's just focused on my development and becoming a better player."
Heading into this year, Smith said playing with a chip on his shoulder will also be the mindset. He certainly hasn't forgotten the knee injury he suffered in his last college game that prevented him from being a Top 5 pick and dropped him to the second round and wiped out his entire rookie season.
"Always got something to prove. Always got something to prove," Smith said. "People thought I'd never play the game again and I'm here. Really, it's about reaching my maximum potential. That's what I'm focused on. Just doing whatever it takes to help the team win."
And when pressed again about the criticism – fair or not – Smith isn't bothered by it.
"Regardless, none of that matters. It's about winning. And for me, that's what I'm focused on," Smith said. "I'm a guy, I done been through it all and I always come out on top. Really just head focused. I'm a guy that's going to work and that's really just what I'm focused on."
Giving up the most points in the history of the franchise isn't something Smith wants this defense to be remembered for. In fact, he knows that unit has to carry its weight better and complement what could be a dynamic offense.
"We can't be the problem as to why this team doesn't succeed and we know that and we're working towards that," Smith said. "It's just about out working every day and that's kind of what were focused on, we're together as a team, as a unit and that's what matters."