By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun
5:48 PM EDT, May 31, 2013
The last time that imposing cornerback Jimmy Smith shadowed a wide receiver in an actual game, his physical coverage of San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree provided an edge in the final moments of the Ravens' Super Bowl victory.
Months later, Smith has been honing his game and getting into optimal shape and health after dealing with a sports hernia surgery last season that sidelined him for five games.
Through a rigorous boxing regimen with a local trainer in Timonium, the 6-foot-2 former first-round draft pick has dropped 10 pounds to get down to a lean 200 pounds.
"I feel great, I feel like I did in college," Smith said. "I actually did some boxing and trying to get my core strength. My trainers told me to work on that for my back and groin. I'm doing conditioning drills, speed bag, no heavy bag.
"A defensive back needs quick hands. The groin really hurt my game last year, playing through that all of last season and finally having surgery. Now that's better. I feel 100 percent better."
Smith finished the regular season with 31 tackles and no interceptions, but had a strong postseason where he displayed the potential the Ravens had identified in him as an All-Big 12 Conference selection at the University of Colorado.
A history of injuries has curtailed Smith's impact in his first two seasons, limiting him to five starts, 49 career tackles, two interceptions and 11 pass deflections.
Smith dealt with a high ankle sprain that prevented him from playing in four games as a rookie and also had a bout with back spasms.
Now, he's slated to compete with veteran Corey Graham for a starting job. However it turns out, both cornerbacks figure to get a hefty workload.
"Anybody can emerge and be a starter," Smith said. "I've been wanting to starter since Day One, but God had a plan. I'm still just learning, trying to become a better player in the classroom and on the field, trying to diagnose plays and read things and be a student of the game.
"You always want to go uphill. You never want to digress. I'm trying to pick up where I left off and do even better. I feel like I've improved. Everything is a work in progress. I'm still trying to climb the mountain. I'm not where I want to be yet, but I'll be there."