Consequently, he drew little interest as a free agent due to concerns about his injury, visiting the St. Louis Rams before signing his contract the same day the Ravens were honored at the White House by President Barack Obama.

Their pursuit of Smith followed trouble-prone middle linebacker Rolando McClain retiring shortly after being signed by the team and then getting arrested in his hometown in Alabama. Now, Smith is signed to the equivalent of a prove-it deal that included a $285,000 signing bonus heading into a season-long audition for a long-term contract here or somewhere else.

"He really does fit in, Daryl's a pro, I'd say he's a consummate pro in a lot of ways," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said this summer. "He doesn't say a lot because he's just about business, and then you sit down and talk to him and realize the depth of his character and personality.

"He's a great family man, he's a mature guy, he's a man. I really believe he's one of the most underrated defensive players in football over the last eight, nine years. We feel pretty fortunate that he's here right now."

Following an offseason during which Lewis retired, Dannell Ellerbe signed with the Miami Dolphins and Jameel McClain wasn't cleared medically due to a spinal cord contusion, the Ravens sorely needed reinforcements to bolster the inside linebacker position.

"The guy's got heavy hands, he's a thumper, and he plays very smoothly," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said during training camp. "It isn't how fast you run, it's how fast you get to the ball. You need to be able to tempo that stuff, and Daryl knows that as a veteran."

Tight end Ed Dickson recalled being hit hard by Smith crossing the middle when he was playing in Jacksonville, and is glad he no longer has to face him outside of practice.

"When you go from a guy like Ray Lewis, you kind of get in that mode of, 'What are we going to do now?' " Dickson said. "Ozzie Newsome went out and got a guy like Daryl Smith, who's a really good player. He's very smart, he's in the right position and he makes tackles. He brings stability to the position.

"He's under control and he has all those tips of the game that teams give off, and he picks them up. Those are the kinds of things that Ray Lewis did as a student of the game. That's what I see in Daryl."

awilson@baltsun.com

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Daryl Smith file

Age: 31

Hometown: Albany, Ga.

College: Georgia Tech

Size: 6 feet 2, 248 pounds

Experience: 10th season

Acquired: Signed as free agent in June

Compensation: One-year contract worth up to $2.125 million, if he meets playing time incentive clauses, and received a $285,000 signing bonus

Career stats: 1,100 tackles, 21.5 sacks, 31 pass deflections, nine forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries

Background: Jacksonville Jaguars' all-time leading tackler, drafted in the second round in 2004

[Aaron Wilson]