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Safety Harrison Smith has returned for Year 13 with the Vikings, tying Bobby Bryant for the most years played by a defensive back in franchise history.

But he's not ready to call this season his retirement tour.

"That's not really my style," Smith said after Tuesday's spring practice at TCO Performance Center.

In March, Smith agreed to a one-year, restructured contract to return to the Vikings and defensive coordinator Brian Flores, whom Smith credited with bringing a spark to the end of his career. Exactly when Smith's illustrious career ends will be determined after another run through the league.

"That's kind of what I've been doing the last few," Smith said. "I just take it day by day and think about what I'm doing on the field and how I can get better at that. That kind of simplifies it and really lets you enjoy the moment other than, 'Oh, this is my last one.' … I like the action, I like the meetings, being around the guys, and when I approach it that way, I tend to get more out of it. And I think I help add more."

Smith said he's feeling healthy after completing his 176th regular-season game in last year's finale at Detroit. After that game, Smith said he was dealing with a painful shoulder injury and wasn't sure he'd play again. The 35-year-old father of two said time with his wife, Madison, and their children helped heal those wounds. He also dabbled in carpentry and welding amid home renovations.

"Completely living life like I wasn't a football player," Smith said. "It's a good weight off your mind to kind of like reset and come back around to it, make a decision. I feel good, I enjoy it, I think I can add a lot."

NFL rosters churn every offseason, but Smith is returning to an almost entirely new front seven on defense. The Vikings signed veteran edge rushers Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel, and drafted edge rusher Dallas Turner in the first round.

"I like the moves," Smith said. "But just getting in the building, seeing the bodies we got, some guys up front. I'm never going to say, 'Oh, yeah [I guarantee success].' We'll see what happens. I like it. I like what we got going on, yeah."

"I know people outside of here aren't expecting as much out of us as we do ourselves," he added. "But I think we have the makings of some good things here."

Flores, Pettine push diversity efforts

Flores, the 43-year-old former Dolphins head coach, is away from the Vikings this week to attend the NFL's accelerator program in Nashville, where coaches of color prepare for job interviews and network with one other and NFL owners. Flores, who oversaw a quick turnaround with the Vikings defense, said he did not get requests for interviews during the last head coaching hiring cycle, when four of eight hires were men of color.

Flores, who is Black and Latino, has an ongoing lawsuit against the NFL and three teams that alleges racially discriminatory hiring practices.

The NFL has a record nine minority head coaches in 2024, but a diversity problem persists in the lower coaching ranks, especially on offense and with quarterbacks.

In Eagan this week, the Vikings are hosting 10 young college coaches of color for a third annual diversity summit. The program, run by assistant head coach Mike Pettine, focuses on similar networking and interview preparation, but for entry-level jobs in the NFL.

"We've got a pretty good shortlist of people we'd hire," Pettine said. "Coaches have been recommended to other teams and have been hired. It's just something that we're really proud of and hopeful that we can grow it to the point where we provide a template for the rest of the league."

Special teams changes

Special teams coordinator Matt Daniels is a busy man. The Vikings have a new kicker, sixth-round rookie Will Reichard, and they recently added another punter for competition after what Daniels called a "sophomore slump" for punter Ryan Wright in 2023.

"The highest touchback percentage in the league [last year], whereas in Year 1 he led the league in lowest touchback percentage," Daniels said. "You look at what went into that, how can we coach it better and how can we be better."

Daniels is also preparing the Vikings for a one-year trial of new kickoff rules, in which both sides will align 5 yards apart (at the 35- and 40-yard lines) and cannot move until the ball hits the ground or is caught. He expects defenders such as linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. to be more involved, and for kick returner Kene Nwangwu to have a renewed value.

"The value of a returner now skyrockets," Daniels said, "and you may have multiple returners back there."