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Unlike Jerry Rice, Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith has no plans to play into his 40s

Ravens veteran wide receiver Steve Smith displayed his traditionally feisty personality and his sense of humor Thursday when the subject of his age and longevity was raised.

The five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver celebrated his 36th birthday this month as he heads into his second season with the Ravens and his 15th year in the NFL.

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When asked when he started getting questions about his age, Smith replied: "Oh, probably after the height questions stopped. It's just one of those things. I always have someone questioning the height, prototype or age. It's always something."

Unlike Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, Smith has no intentions of playing past age 40. Rice retired when he was 42 years old in 2005 after setting NFL records with 1,549 catches, 22,895 yards and 208 touchdowns.

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"Jerry Rice is obviously the greatest wide receiver to ever play, and I really don't have the family structure to chase 40, to be honest," Smith said. "I have got a lot of things on my to-do list that don't have anything to do with football. I'm going to take it day by day, but I will not be playing until I'm 40."

Smith is entering the second year of a three-year, $11 million contract. Smith always planned to play at least two seasons when he signed with the Ravens last year, according to a source with knowledge of his thinking. At this point, Smith has left it open for perhaps playing another season beyond this one.

Smith immediately declared after the Ravens' playoff loss to the New England Patriots that he wanted to come back for this season.

While driving to his home in Charlotte, N.C., Smith said his thoughts never wavered about playing again.

"I was pretty sure I was coming back," Smith said. "I left here knowing what my plans were, and my family knew what the plans were. ...

"I think age is a number. Right now, I feel good and I'm playing well, so I think that 36 is good."

A year ago after being cut by the Carolina Panthers after 13 seasons, Smith led the Ravens with 79 receptions for 1,065 yards. He started every game for the Ravens last season and also caught eight passes for 145 yards and a touchdown in two playoff games.

For his career, Smith has caught 915 passes for 13,262 yards and 73 touchdowns.

"Yeah, I'm 36, and I remember last year when I signed here you guys weren't expecting anything from a 35-year-old," Smith said. "And now you can pick on me because I'm 36. I'm just going to play football and practice.

"I think I look halfway decent. I think there are teams that probably drafted a wide receiver hoping that they could get a guy fresh out of college to put up 1,000 yards like I did."

Smith hasn't shown any signs of changing, challenging cornerbacks in a routine practice and needling coaches.

"He's one of the guys that everybody kind of looks at and says, 'OK, how is Steve doing on this play?' and they feed off of that and learn how to practice," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "Anytime you can get guys out here of his nature, it does things for the whole team just because all the young guys learn from it.

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"I wouldn't describe him as super intense right now. He's just being himself. He's kind of being goofy and having fun and working hard at the same time."

awilson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/RavensInsider

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