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DE Smith ecstatic to join Texans


Defensive end Antonio Smith will form a nasty pass rush tandem with Pro Bowler Mario Williams.

The Texans addressed a major need in free agency on Saturday by signing free agent Antonio Smith from the Arizona Cardinals. The 6-4, 285-pound defensive end adds a strong presence to the Texans' pass rush.

Smith is coming off a monster postseason, when he totaled eight tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery to help the Cardinals reach Super Bowl XLIII.

"I just want to start off by saying that I'm a happy man; I'm a blessed man," Smith said. "God has really blessed me to be a part of this team. I think it's going to be an electrifying year for the defensive line of the Houston Texans."

After the Texans released defensive end Anthony Weaver prior to free agency, the team was in need for a replacement. Smith will fill in nicely opposite Pro Bowler Mario Williams at left defensive end.

"I think it's going to be a great pair," Smith said. "I've been watching him; I just started really watching him last year and coming on to this year. I think that having him on the other side is going to be fun. I like to have fun out there and I think that's exactly what it's going to be. We're going to cause a lot of havoc for the offensive linemen out there."

{QUOTE}A fifth-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft from Oklahoma State, Smith has played in all 16 games the past three seasons. He had his best year in 2007 with career highs in tackles (37), sacks (5.5) and games started (13).

He followed up that performance with a career-high two forced fumbles in 2008, along with 31 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries to help Arizona win the NFC West.

The Texans appear fortunate to acquire Smith, who was a hot commodity in free agency. In fact, Smith says that he received interest from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams.

After the Buccaneers contacted Smith within minutes after the start of free agency, followed shortly after by the Giants, the Texans invited him to Houston for a visit. Once Smith consulted with his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, he decided to meet with the Texans first.

"From the moment I got here, I loved the hospitality, I loved the city," he said. "I got a good feel for the coaches and the type of people that they are, and management. From up top, everybody just seemed like down-to-earth people, good people that you would like to be around."

Part of the appeal of signing with the Texans is Smith's familiarity with defensive coordinator Frank Bush. The two spent three years together in Arizona from 2004-06, when Bush coached linebackers and Smith was trying to establish himself as an every-down player.

"I was excited to play for coach (Bush) again because from the beginning of my career, he always kept me grounded," Smith said. "He always kept me hungry, making me work. He raised my level of play, even as a practice squad player, teaching me just how to practice and how to always go hard and how to always give it my all, even in practice."

A lot of similarities have been drawn this offseason between the Texans and Cardinals, who rebounded from an 8-8 record in 2007 to win the NFC Championship this past season. Some people predict that type of success for the Texans following the team's consecutive 8-8 seasons.

Smith believes his experience in the postseason with a team that had not been to a conference title game in 60 years will help the Texans.

"I know that what I can bring to the table will help the people around me," Smith said. "I think it will help my players, my defensive linemen, my counterparts. I think I'm going to play my heart out for them, and once they see how much I give for my teammates and for my team, which I'm all about, then I think we can feed off each other.

"I think once you have a good chemistry, and that's exactly what we had together (in Arizona) at the end of the year last year with the push through the playoffs, once you've got the good chemistry and believe in each other, there's no stopping you."

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