Notebook: Alex Smith’s rushing game drops off

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Quarterback Alex Smith built his brand as an athletic quarterback with wheels, scrambling out of the pocket away from pressure for big gains or using the run-option to keep defenses honest, but this season he has just 15 yards rushing through five games.

Dec. 13, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) rushes for yards against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Dec. 13, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) rushes for yards against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

It’s a mystery even to Smith himself.

“I don’t know, it’s tough,” Smith said. “We joke about it in the QB room. I don’t know what’s going on there.”

Smith has 1,959 rushing yards in his career, including 1,198 yards in 51 games with the Chiefs. Last year he rushed 84 times for a career-high 498 yards.

This season, Smith has just 13 rushes for 15 yards. That includes the 15 yards he gained in the season opener against San Diego; since then he has nine rushes for zero yards.

Coach Andy Reid said the Chiefs haven’t altered their game plan to limit the quarterback’s contact.

“We’ve never told him to run, and we’ve never told him not to run,” Reid said. “It’s just how the defenses have presented themselves this year.”

Smith said situations and circumstances have reduced some of his opportunities. He said his offensive line created a clean pocket on Sunday, eliminating the need for him to scramble.

“I don’t think our style of play has changed,” Smith said. “I don’t think mine has. Certainly those opportunities haven’t been there, in the scrambling areas especially.”

Smith believes quarterback runs can come in bunches, and he will be taking off sometime soon — he just doesn’t know when.

“There will be a game here where you’ll get some opportunities, and I think it’s important to be able to take advantage of,” Smith explained. “I still feel like it’s a big tool of mine.”

ANDY REID’S INFLUENCE ON SEAN PAYTON

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has crossed paths with Reid on many occasions, and holds the Chiefs head coach in high regard.

“I think I have a great relationship with Andy,” Payton said. “I have a ton of respect for him.”

The two first met in Philadelphia, where Payton served as quarterbacks coach under Ray Rhodes, whom Reid replaced in 1999. Payton went on to serve as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for the New York Giants and assistant head coach for the Dallas Cowboys, competing for the NFC East title each year against Reid.

“We watch his film all the time,” Payton said. “There’s a handful of tapes that we’re always going to watch offensively, and his would be one of them.”

When Payton started off 0-3 after the bye week in his first three seasons in New Orleans, he called Reid for advice. Reid’s Eagles teams won 13 straight games after a bye week.

“He’s the type of guy you can just pick the phone up,” Payton said.

Payton said Reid told him to use the time to give his staff and players the opportunity to rest and recuperate.

Since then, Payton’s teams have gone 6-2 following the bye week, including a 41-38 win over Carolina Sunday.

“I’ve never worked with Andy, but he’s always been great to me,” Payton said. “Periodically we’ll have a conversation or a text, and I’m just a huge fan.”

PARTING WAYS WITH KNILE DAVIS

The Chiefs sent running back Knile Davis to the Green Bay Packers on Tuesday in exchange for conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2018. Reid said the decision to part ways with Davis proved difficult.

“Knile is one of my favorite guys,” Reid said. “I’ve appreciated everything that he did here. Came to work every day, busted his tail. I know he’s going to help Green Bay.”

Davis found himself fading on the team’s depth chart at running back behind Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West. Rookie Tyreek Hill also emerged to eclipse Davis as the primary kick returner. The team listed Davis as inactive for Sunday’s game at Oakland.

Reid said the Chiefs’ offensive scheme evolved away from what Davis does best as a downhill runner.

“Some of the stuff we’re doing, probably isn’t some of his best stuff,” Reid said.

Injuries left the Packers scrambling at running back, which gives Davis an opportunity to play more frequently in the prime of his career, Reid said.

“(General manger John) Dorsey and I, both, thought that was important – give him an opportunity there to go play,” Reid said. “He was kind of stuck in the depth chart, here a little bit.”

PRACTICE SQUAD ADDITION

The Chiefs signed linebacker Deion Barnes to their practice squad. The 6-4, 255-pound Barnes spent last year as an undrafted college free agent with the New York Jets.

Barnes started 31 games in three seasons at Penn State, recording 14 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss with five forced fumbles. He declared for the NFL draft as a redshirt junior but was not selected in the 2015 draft.

The linebacker spent the 2015 season the Jets practice squad. He remained with the Jets through much of training camp and preseason before the team released him in late August.

The addition of Barnes leaves two open slots on the practice squad after the Chiefs promoted linebacker Ramik Wilson, cornerback Terrance Mitchell and defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches on Tuesday.