The personality of veteran wide receiver Steve Smith is routinely on display, whether he's shoving cornerbacks around on the field or reacting to suggestions that he's past his prime.
The Ravens' new starting wide receiver celebrated his 35th birthday this month. After organized team activities Thursday, during which Smith made several acrobatic catches, he was asked whether his best days as a football player are behind him.
“The sense of urgency, I could really [not] care less about that,” Smith said. “The [defensive back] that's going to be sitting in front of me, he's going to find out how much I have left in the tank, and he'll find out real quick.”
The Ravens signed Smith to a three-year, $11 million contract in March, one day after the Carolina Panthers released the five-time Pro Bowl selection after 13 seasons. In his last year in Carolina, he had 64 catches for 745 yards and four touchdowns.
“I love competition,” Smith said. “Obviously, you [reporters] seem to always have something to say and have a comment, so I love to read those. And I'd like to serve a little humble pie to you and do a little better than what you think.”
Drafted in the third round by Carolina in 2001 out of Utah, Smith still holds on to a negative scouting report from Sporting News magazine after he was drafted, and uses it as motivation.
“When you're coming out as a rookie, you save that stuff because you can't get that back,” Smith said. “At the same time, it was said, and I just thought it was convenient 14 years later that people still have something to say. I find it interesting.”
The Ravens landed Smith over competing bids from the New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers and the Seattle Seahawks, among others.
“There aren't too many 35-year-olds that are getting recruited to play for five or six other teams,” Smith said. “I look at that and say: ‘I must be doing something right.'”
The Ravens acquired Smith with the hope that he'll inject toughness into an offense that wasn't nearly as physical outside last year after trading wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers following a contract dispute.
“I think he fits in; he's our kind of guy, in a lot of ways,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I just like what he stands for. I like the competitor. I like the fire in him, the toughness. Watching him out at practice, he's still a really good player. There's no doubt. He's going to help us a lot. I'm excited about him."Smith wrestled for contested catches and battled to prevent an errant pass from being intercepted.
“The guy is strong as an ox, and that helps me out to get prepared for the season,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “He runs great routes and he’s making me better, and I’m making him better, too, because I’m challenging him just like he’s challenging me. We just want to be great, us both.”
Smith said he's simply being himself, the same guy who built a reputation for his feisty nature with the Panthers.
"To be honest, on the football field I’m a different … it’s not like you’re out there sharing cookie recipes, it’s an aggressive game," Smith said. "Outside of the football field, I’m quiet, I’m minding my business, I’m low-key, I’m laidback. I enjoy family time and I enjoy hanging out. I enjoy pranks and having fun.
"But on the field, it’s business. That’s what I’m brought here for, is to play and to play well, and that’s what I expect. I expect that out of myself, and I know I’m new here, but I expect that out of the people that are around me.”