Smith, who moved into the starting lineup when Lardarius Webb went down in Week 6 with a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee, had successful surgery to repair a sport hernia Thursday morning in Philadelphia. Smith will miss Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and several weeks beyond that, but the team is hopeful he’ll return before the end of the season.
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“Every time you lose somebody, it has a little bit of an impact,” Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “But we’ve got to get the next guy ready and just get ready to go.”
Pees did not reveal the team’s plans going forward to replace Smith, but they are expected to include Corey Graham stepping into a starting role opposite Cary Williams, and second-year cornerback Chykie Brown also assuming a bigger role. Veteran Chris Johnson, a former starting cornerback for the Raiders who the Ravens signed Tuesday, also could be forced to play immediately.
“Every place I’ve ever been, you can’t have too many [cornerbacks],” Pees said. “You don’t expect all of this to happen, but it’s football, professional football. Some years you go through and you’re unscathed. Some years you go through, and it’s not. But you’ve got to make due with what you’ve got.”
Graham, a former Chicago Bear who the Ravens signed this offseason mostly because of his work on special teams, had three interceptions last year. He started nine games at cornerback for the Bears in 2008 and one in 2009. He made his first start for the Ravens in last week’s 55-20 victory over the Raiders when Smith was active but never played because he couldn’t get his groin loose.
“That’s a tough loss. Jimmy makes a lot of plays for us,” said Graham who has 11 tackles this season. “He’s been playing here all this year and last year. So it’s big for us, but other guys got to step up. You just got to go out there and make plays and find a way to get it done. Hopefully, I get an opportunity to play more. I’ve got to go out there when I get my chance and just make plays”
Johnson, meanwhile, has more modest goals. He started 29 games for the Raiders the past four seasons and recorded eight interceptions. However, he has been out of football since getting released by Oakland in March.
“I'm here to help out and be part of the puzzle,” said Johnson, 33. “I pride myself on learning on the run and learning to play well. I'll probably play both defense and special teams, probably some nickel and sub packages.”
In eight games this season, including two starts after Webb tore up his knee in the Dallas Cowboys’ game, Smith made 27 tackles and had three pass breakups. This will mark his second extended absence in as many seasons as he missed nearly five full games following a high ankle sprain that he sustained while covering the opening kickoff of last year’s season opener against the Steelers.