Harrison Smith didn't want to use the word "excited" to describe his mood on the first day of his 12th NFL training camp. Too cliché, he said. All players and coaches say that.

"Whatever a synonym for 'excited' is," he said, "I'm that for what we could potentially have going here."

Here. Minnesota. Quarterbacking the Vikings defense.

Deep down, Smith knew he really didn't want to play anywhere else when presented with that option this offseason, even if staying with the team that drafted him required accepting a pay cut.

He looked and considered a few select teams. Nothing too serious, he said. He tried to take emotion out of his deliberations, as best he could, and not consider how rare it is for any long-tenured veteran to play for one team for an entire career.

"It didn't make sense to me to go somewhere," he said. "I'd rather just stop."

He chuckled. He presumably meant stop playing, but he's not ready for the finish line just yet. If anything, the six-time Pro Bowl safety looks and sounds invigorated at age 34.

Though he was complimentary of former defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, Smith acknowledged that his style of play wasn't an ideal fit for Donatell's scheme. The way that Donatell used Smith in his one season certainly was head-scratching.

Smith blitzed only 14 times, the second-lowest total in his career, according to Pro Football Focus. Smith never blitzed fewer than 35 times in a season under Mike Zimmer.

Enter new coordinator Brian Flores, who is known for being creative and aggressive. Those traits align with Smith's strengths. The opportunity to play for Flores was a "big part" of his decision to return.

"[Donatell's] scheme is very popular around the league, but it's probably not my style in general, where Flo's probably more is," Smith said. "And not exactly in the way that maybe you saw with Zim. It's fun to learn different ways to do things."

Smith's motivation is singular in nature at this stage of his career. He's already secured his place in Vikings history and done enough to put himself in Hall of Fame discussion once he retires. He's achieved wealth and status as one of the NFL's top safeties over the past decade.

NFL media often fill summer lulls by creating player rankings by position. Smith admitted that those lists and being recognized among peers mattered to him on some level as a young player. He never obsessed over them, but he paid attention.

His perspective has changed.

"It's pretty corny to say, but I've learned as I've gotten older how fun true competition is," he said. "You obviously want to make as much money as you can, and it's cool when people recognize you [as a star player]. I don't take that stuff for granted at all. But it's kind of …"

He paused for a second.

"Is the money I make this year or the recognition I get, is that really going to change my life? Probably not," he said. "But when I'm done playing, I can't go back and just play again. I get to play right now. That is what I cherish the most."

And don't even consider asking about how he feels physically. He joked that the question is an annual rite of training camp the older he gets.

He refuses to bow to Father Time. Smith gets to spend time with friends back home in the offseason. If someone in the group happens to complain about a sore back or talks of no longer being able to do the same things physically, Smith will walk away.

"I don't want to hear that," he said. "I don't even want it in my mind. I'm fantastic."

He's kept his same training routine and still "dabbles" on vacation in activities that he's always enjoyed, including snowboarding, because he believes that "pushes off the idea of aging."

The prospect of playing in Flores' scheme reveals youthful exuberance in Smith's voice. That excitement — or whatever synonym for "excitement" you choose — stems from his own fresh start and also new opportunities for his teammates.

"I think we have some pieces that maybe people don't realize we have that will be used well in this scheme," he said.

Being the longest-tenured player in the locker room means Smith has witnessed a lot of change. He survived a veteran roster purge this offseason that included longtime teammates Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks. He misses them, but he also understands that change is life in the NFL.

Smith stayed put, and he's happy he did so.

"At the end of the day, you're all just guys from some small hometown that made it here and created friendships," he said. "It's stuff you never think would happen. I definitely cherish those relationships. Now you build new ones and enjoy the time I have with some young guys I don't even really know yet that I'll get to know this season. Some coaches I'll get to know. Maybe it'll be some of the best relationships I've had."