What stood out from Jimmy Smith's first NFL practice is that it didn't look like it was the cornerback's first NFL practice.
The Ravens' 2011 first-round pick jammed wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. He ripped a pass away over the middle. And he picked up the Ravens' defense in a few meetings.
Only hours after signing a four-year, $7.4 million contract (which includes a $3.9 million signing bonus), Smith showed no signs of being intimidated. In fact, he already seemed like he belonged.
That's why Smith can envision himself covering Hines Ward and Mike Wallace as the Week 1 starter against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He'll need to unseat either Domonique Foxworth or Lardarius Webb, both of whom are running with the first team, to do so.
"I've got a lot of work to do, but I definitely feel I can be a starter," Smith said. "I totally think so."
Making an immediate impact has become a tradition for the Ravens' top draft selections. Since 2002, seven of the eight first-round picks by the Ravens have started at least half the season as a rookie. The only exception was Terrell Suggs in 2003, and he won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award as a pass-rushing specialist.
Smith's challenge is greater than any other first-rounder in Ravens history. The NFL lockout eliminated weeks of offseason minicamps, which serve as an initiation to players, especially inexperienced ones.
The first time Smith stepped onto an NFL practice field comes 45 days before the regular season begins.
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who started 16 games in 2006 as a rookie first-round pick, was asked if he could relate to what Smith is going through.
"I have no idea what his mind is like now," Ngata said. "I feel bad for these rookies."
Smith contends there's no confusion. He picked up the Ravens' playbook when he was drafted in April and flipped through it for three weeks. There was a comfort zone because the defense was similar to the one he played in at Colorado.
"The schemes, to me, are simple," Smith said. "In meeting rooms, we're going through the defense fairly rapid. I see it and I just get it."
Smith wasn't overwhelmed on the field, either. Many rookies are surprised by the increase speed of the game at the NFL level.
"I don't know if everybody was tired, but it was not fast for me," he said.
The biggest adjustment was the physical play. In college, receivers will try to juke defenders to get free off the line.
In his first NFL practice, he learned it was a much different game.
"These receivers run right into you and throw you off them," Smith said. For me, I like it. I like the physicality."
It shouldn't be a problem for the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Smith, who really stands a helmet taller than anyone else in the Ravens' secondary. He even went toe-to-toe with Anquan Boldin a few times.
The one complaint about Smith's practice debut was not at the start of plays but at the end of them. When a receiver would catch the ball against him, he would stop instead of chasing after them and going after the ball. New defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano ripped into him for that.
Ravens rookie Jimmy Smith hits ground running in first practice
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