Dolphins’ Cam Smith has no hard feelings toward Vic Fangio, calls limited opportunities in rookie season ‘learning experience’

MIAMI GARDENS — Miami Dolphins safety Jevon Holland already let his true feelings be known about former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Holland, at least, always had his job secured through Fangio’s lone season leading the Dolphins’ defense.

Who might have more reason to have longstanding beef with Fangio after his departure, as he fled to Philadelphia to become defensive coordinator of the Eagles, was cornerback Cam Smith. He was held to a mere 20 defensive snaps last season as a rookie second-round pick under Fangio.

As the Dolphins mutually parted ways with Fangio early this offseason and went the route of the more player-friendly Anthony Weaver to lead the defense, Smith doesn’t see it that way, though. This even after tweeting an emoji of an unlocked lock the day of Miami’s split with Fangio, to signify he will be free under a new coach.

“Really, just kind of expressing myself,” Smith said after Tuesday’s organized team activities session, speaking to the media for the first time this offseason. “Yeah, I didn’t have the season I wanted. I ain’t really get the opportunities that I wanted, but I mean, that’s that. In the end, ain’t nothing given to you in this league. Stuff happens, and I’m here, so I feel like I’m free.”

It wasn’t expected Smith would see more action as a rookie than top cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard, or Kader Kohou, who came off a strong rookie season in 2022. But others to play more than Smith’s 20 snaps included veteran Eli Apple (547), who was signed in camp after Ramsey’s preseason knee injury, special teamer Justin Bethel (124), Parry Nickerson (84) and Nik Needham (71), who was coming off Achilles rehab.

Even Kelvin Joseph, whom the Dolphins got in return for shipping Noah Igbinoghene away to the Cowboys, had 21 snaps on defense — one more than Smith — before he was waived Nov. 14. And, if you include Miami’s playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs when Smith was a healthy inactive, undrafted rookie cornerback Ethan Bonner got to 22 with his 11 defensive snaps in the postseason.

But Smith doesn’t harp on being a spectator as much as he was.

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“Not really that bad,” he said. “I’m under two of the greats in the league, two of the best to ever do it, under X and Jalen. So, it wasn’t really a bad thing about it. I learned a lot from all of them, Eli, Justin Bethel, all of them.

“It was really a learning experience. I just went to school for a year.”

He also, through it all, takes positives from his time with Fangio.

“A lot of the offensive side of the ball, understanding football for real,” Smith said. “He broke everything down: Yardage, what people do from the 40 to the 40, what people do from the 20 to the 40. It was kind of making me understand the offensive side of the ball more, which will make it easier on defense.”

Smith revealed the greater frustration came during training camp, as he could see how it was going for him under Fangio.

“Of course, you think about it certain times during games, but I wasn’t really focused on it because, when I did focus on it, it felt like I was losing my love for the game doing that,” Smith said.

His mother helped him get through it.

“Just kind of talking to her every day, coming to her, just telling her everything going on,” Smith said. “Just seeing it through: Can’t see it now, but it’s going to help you in the future. And now, I’m here.”

Smith sees Weaver as “a lot more laid back,” with Fangio a “traditional, old coach.” He’s playing free this offseason as Weaver has offered him a clean slate.

“Really, just saying don’t worry about what happened last season,” Smith said of his conversations with Weaver. “‘I don’t know what happened last season. Just come in and ball.’”

An added benefit is that Smith feels the terminology of Weaver’s defense is similar to what he played in college at South Carolina.

One question that surrounded Smith last season was about his work ethic, whether that was something Fangio saw as lacking in not playing him. To anyone questioning it, Smith doesn’t feel he needs to respond or show how hard he’s training on social media.

“I don’t record stuff. I don’t post stuff on Instagram,” he said. “I feel like that’s for Sundays, so I really don’t care what anybody says about work ethic or stuff like that. I know what I do.”

Smith is primarily a boundary cornerback, but he said he cross-trained himself at nickel last season to be prepared to contribute there if need be.

He also feels physically stronger, able to stop receivers in press coverage.