Standing in front of his locker Thursday, Ravens veteran wide receiver Steve Smith was already displaying signs of intensity and his trademark no-nonsense attitude.
Smith wasn't in a chatty mood and was starting his focus days before his first regular-season game with the Ravens on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium.
The five-time Pro Bowl selection closed a brief group interview by saying, "I don't have anything to prove."
At one point, Smith smiled and did his best impersonation of reticent Houston Texans running back Arian Foster by saying he's "just trying to be the teammate I can be."
After 13 seasons with the Carolina Panthers, Smith is relaunching his career with the Ravens after signing a three-year, $11 million contract in March.
During the preseason, Smith dominated practice sessions and built his chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco. He had an acrobatic diving touchdown catch in the third preseason game against the Washington Redskins.
The 35-year-old has looked anything but done after being cut in March by the Panthers after catching 64 passes for 745 yards and four touchdowns last season.
"Steve's getting up there in age, but he hasn't changed his tenacity and physicality," said former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, an NBC analyst. "He's still able to impose his will. When you talk about his style of play, pairing up with the Baltimore Ravens, the two go hand in hand. He brings that toughness to the offense they haven't had since Anquan Boldin was playing for them.
"Steve is going to bring that swagger and attitude back to that team. That's a testament to Steve. I think he still has a lot left in his game. He'll be a great complement to Torrey Smith. To be so small, Steve still has that catch radius and he's got the speed. He'll bring that attitude and toughness back to the Baltimore Ravens."
For his career, Smith has caught 836 passes for 12,1917 yards and 67 touchdowns.
The 5-foot-9, 195-pounder is expected to remain productive with the Ravens. In limited action during the preseason, Smith caught eight passes for 97 yards and one touchdown.
Smith should inject toughness into the Ravens' offense a year after they traded Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers.
"Steve's one of the toughest football players I've ever seen," said former NFL safety Matt Bowen, who covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. "That's the best compliment you can get as a football player. He's one of the toughest guys ever.
"No doubt, he's fearless. They really suffered when they lost Boldin. Steve is the kind of guy who's a tone-setter. He can come up with the big play on third down. The game is never too big for Steve Smith. The bigger the stakes, the more he likes it."
The Ravens envision Smith providing a hard-nosed downfield threat whether it's operating over the middle or running a fly pattern.
"Watching him in the preseason, what I saw is a guy who can separate on the routes and a guy who can still play," said former NFL general manager Charley Casserly, an NFL Network analyst. "He's a tough guy, but they have to monitor him because he's so competitive. They're aware that he can be a little bit of his own worst enemy. If he can stay healthy, he'll be a big asset. This guy will have a chip on his shoulder."
Smith acknowledged feeling some emotions heading into the season-opener.
"From the first start of the regular season, whether it's a new team or not, I'm always nervous," Smith said. "You want to get that first pass, first hit, first run, first kickoff, first whatever it is, out of the way.
"Man, honestly I just don't want to screw up. That's the bottom line. Some people may say that's not true, but, yes, you don't want to screw up."
twitter.com/RavensInsiderCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun