One of the most widely publicized additions of the offseason was veteran wide receiver, Steve Smith. Newly adding the Sr. to the end of the his name, the Ravens version of the diminutive wideout is a seasoned one. But for all the years he has dominated, there appears to be something left in his tank.
Recently, there was word that Steve Smith was going to retire after the 2014 season. Well, that before being cut, that is. Then, as defensive coordinator Dean Pees would put it, the Carolina Panthers woke the sleeping dog.
“Whenever we played him in the preseason, the first thing I told the DBs in the room was, ‘Look, don’t get him mad,” Pees said. “‘He plays a lot harder when he’s mad. Just leave him alone. Let a sleeping dog lay.’”
Instead of retiring, Smith inked a three-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens, despite entering his age 35 season. And after that change of heart, there is plenty that Steve Smith Sr. can bring to the Ravens offense — both from a production and tutelage standpoint. But just how much affect is he having on the Ravens offense, and for all of the “grit” that Smith is so notorious for, just what does that bring to a locker room?
“He’s just so competitive. He brings an edge to practice all the time,” offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. “He challenges people, as far as how you play and how you go about doing [your work]. He’s challenged coaches, too. Every good offense that I’ve been around, I’ve had a few of those guys saying, ‘Get me the ball, coach!’ and that’s a good thing, and that’s what you want. He works to get the ball, so that’s what’s impressive to me.”
So rather than being a primadonna, Smith opts to be a workman. A workman with an admittedly loud mouth and short temper — however his biggest assets in the heat of battle could be his passion and toughness.
“Steve Smith – I could use some adjectives – he is a pain, in a good way,” Pees said to laughter. “The guy is a heck of a player. He’s made some grabs out here. He’s a tough guy. He’s everything advertised. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
“You definitely see the fire,” fourth-year receiver Torrey Smith said. “He takes everything serious, he’s very passionate and there are some people … I guess if you’re not used to a guy who’s passionate about his job, it comes off as raunchy, but it fits here. There are plenty of guys like that here. He’s perfect for us, and we’re glad he’s here.”
Smith has been putting on a clinic in practices on how to come back to the football, and this should pay dividends for the Ravens offense and allow Flacco a little more room for error on comeback routes. For a 5-foot-8 receiver, Smith’s pension for attacking the football is unrivaled. This is valuable insight that can be passed on to the receivers, and he apparently hasn’t been shy about sharing his knowledge — whether sought or not.
“He’s always pulling me aside, telling me something even if I already knew it,” Smith jested. “He’ll tell you, ‘Man, I’m going to be on you. I’m going to be on you.’ You can never be good enough. And I appreciate that. I’ve been lucky. I’ve been able to play the game around two of the best wide receivers in the past 15 years, just to play around two great vets like that … And Steve is completely different than Anquan [Boldin], and I’m picking his brain and learning, and he’s a great teacher as well.”
There it goes again, back to Anquan Boldin. Funny, as it always seems to come back to that name at the wide receiver position. But there are those intangibles that can’t really be measured, and it seems Steve Smith has bold checks in those boxes, as did ‘Quan.
No matter, I think it’s safe to say that Steve Smith will provide plenty of assistance to the Ravens this season.
With the qualifier that practice is just that and Smith Sr. will need to assert himself when it counts, it seems the value that he brings to the Ravens doesn’t just stretch to third-down. Here’s to hoping the wide receivers have their notepads handy.