On September 11, the life of Cleveland Browns defensive end Chris Smith changed forever when his girlfriend, Petara Cordero, was tragically killed in an accident. The pair had originally pulled over to the side of I-90 in Cleveland after a tire malfunction forced them to collide with the median. When Cordero exited the car, she was struck by another vehicle and was killed.
The Browns had originally planned to be without Smith for some time after explaining that he would have the full support of the team and the resources available. He would be excused from practice sessions while grieving, which meant that he could also potentially miss game time. However, Smith is not taking time away from his team. Instead, he will be suiting up Monday night with the intention of helping Cleveland defeat the New York Jets and move the record to 1-1 on the season.
"I am going to play tonight because it is something, she would want me to do,'' Smith. "She would want me to keep doing what I love and stay strong. I play for her tonight. She is my why."
Chris Smith will play against the Jets tonight after his girlfriend, Petara Cordero, tragically passed away this week. pic.twitter.com/up4RYFjukn— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 16, 2019
The Cordero and Smith family extended their thanks to everyone that had extended their well wishes, thoughts, and prayers in a statement released by Smith's spokesperson. "From the bottom of their hearts, they are grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support."
"At this time, they ask for complete privacy as both families take the time needed to grieve the sudden and unexpected loss of their beloved Petara Cordero."
Smith originally returned to practice on Saturday, joining his team in preparation for Monday's game. His status was unclear at the time, but he made the trip to New York on Sunday and ultimately decided Monday morning that he would participate in the game.
Smith and Cordero recently had their daughter, Haven, four weeks prior to the accident. The Browns excused Smith from the preseason battle between the Browns and the Indianapolis Colts in order for him to attend the birth of his child.
Smith originally joined the Browns after three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and one with the Cincinnati Bengals. The former fifth-round pick in 2014 (Jacksonville) started two of the 16 games in which he appeared during the 2018 season, and he tallied 21 combined tackles, one sack, two passes defensed, and a forced fumble. He was one reason for the Browns' surprising turnaround that resulted in a 7-8-1 season.