Smith and Cooper were on a 21-foot vessel that left Clearwater Pass on Saturday morning for a fishing trip and did not return as expected, the Coast Guard said Sunday. Crews used a helicopter and a 47-foot motor-life boat to search a 750-square mile area west of Clearwater Pass on Sunday.
Smith, 29, had 30 tackles, including three sacks, and an interception in 12 games last season for the winless Lions. Smith, who is 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, also played for the San Francisco 49ers and played college ball at North Carolina State.
Del Duca called Smith one of the “good guys” of the league and was planning to start visiting teams as a free agent this week. He said he has spoken with Smith’s family and is also in touch with Coast Guard officials.
“They’ve assured me that they’re deploying all available resources to look for these guys and get them back,” he said.
Cooper, 26, has played sparingly in five seasons with the Buccaneers, Seahawks, Jaguars, Steelers and Raiders. Cooper, who is 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, played college ball at Washington.
Rick Davis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tampa, said seas were about 2 to 4 feet Saturday morning and increased to 3 to 5 feet in the afternoon. Late Saturday night, a small craft advisory was issued, when winds were around 20 knots and seas were up to 7 feet or more. There were no thunderstorms in the area.
Davis said the water was “extremely rough and choppy” on Sunday afternoon.
Lions spokesman Bill Keenist said he had heard Smith was aboard a missing boat but hadn’t been able to confirm it.
“We’re aware of the media reports,” Keenist said Sunday afternoon. “We’re trying to find out what we can.”