Jimmy Smith has been back for the Ravens' last three contests after undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia on Nov. 15. But after being used sparingly in the team's games against the Denver Broncos on Dec. 16 and the New York Giants the week after, the cornerback got his most extensive work of the month in the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Smith said he is beginning to feel as if he can play with no hesitation or limitation.
"My brain always works that way," he said with a smile Friday. "Physically, at practice now, I'm doing everything that I need to be doing. It's just that I'm making sure that I have the quickness and the speed that I once had before."
After missing five straight contests, Smith was slowly worked back into the rotation, playing 12 snaps on defense against the Broncos before being relegated to special teams against the Giants. But he played 33 snaps against the Bengals as coach John Harbaugh elected to rest starters Cary Williams and Corey Graham.
"It gave me a lot of optimism because obviously, it's a tough surgery to turn around from and get back and be ready to play, especially at the position that I'm playing," Smith said of his performance last Sunday. "It was kind of a difficult process, but the fact that I got in there by the end of the season and played at a pretty decent level – in the cold – I think I did pretty well."
Since being selected by the Ravens in the first round of last year's NFL draft, Smith has been bothered by injuries. A high left ankle sprain in the 2011 season opener cost him four games, and back spasms plagued him in the preseason.
Smith admitted that he has wondered what he has done to bring about this spate of ailments, but he also said that he's trying to stay above the fray.
"If I sit and worry about my frustrations, that will take me out of my progression to get back," he said. "I'm trying to contribute however I can. If it's cheering the team on the sideline while I'm out or helping out Chykie [Brown] when he's in there or whoever it is, I've got to stay focused more on that than my own worries and frustrations."