(UPDATED: 10:30 a.m.)
Mike Smith hates being the story.
There have been several times when I’ve spoken to him about how well the Falcons were playing, and he would respond, “This story is about the players.” Last week when we sat for a 30-minute chat about the team’s seeming lack of focus this season and how he was dealing with it, he asked just before I walked out of his office, “You’re not writing this column about me, are you?”
But it’s game night tonight against Jacksonville and Mike Smith is the story. Last Sunday night, he was taken off the team’s plane at a Charlotte airport because of chest pains (which he and team officials have since tried to play down). Now there is a report from former AJC comrade Len Pasquarelli of The Sports Xchange that Smith, after suffering from “persistent chest-related discomfort,” likely will undergo precautionary tests as early as Friday.
UPDATE: The Falcons have confirmed that Smith has a followup appointment with doctors Friday, but say it was an appointment previously scheduled from when he was in the hospital in Charlotte late Sunday and early Monday. Smith insists that he feels fine. His appointment is expected to be at Emory Hospital.
Hopefully, Smith is OK. It’s easy to understand his concern in being “the story,” especially with only three games left in the regular season. He doesn’t want to become a distraction in a playoff race.
But Smith has to understand people aren’t going to quickly dismiss this as a case of indigestion, because logic tells us if that’s all it was, he wouldn’t have been taken off an airplane last Sunday night. The Falcons play tonight on the NFL Network, and there’s a good chance commentators are going to spend a fair amount of time talking about the Falcons’ head coach. In the big picture, that’s the last thing Smith should be worried about.
By Jeff Schultz