Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. answers reporters questions about the grass on the playing field and the play of Joe Flacco while wearing a Yoda costume. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun video)
In the past three years, the Ravens have convinced free agent wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Mike Wallace to join them. Their opponent on Monday night, the New England Patriots, also sought their services.
Smith was poised to visit New England and perhaps the Seattle Seahawks and San Diego Chargers in March 2014, but the Ravens inked the five-time Pro Bowl selection to a three-year, $11 million contract before he could leave the team facility in Owings Mills. The organization applied the same approach to Wallace two years later, persuading him to sign without visiting other teams.
Smith, who is in the final year of his deal, declined to revisit that sequence of events Wednesday afternoon.
"That was a long time ago," he said during a press conference at which he wore a Yoda onesie he said he bought at a Holiday Helpers event. "A lot has transpired."
Asked if the Patriots' interest was tempting, Smith replied, "It was close, but I'm here. So that has nothing to do with this game coming up. Does it?"
Similarly, New England coach Bill Belichick was not in the mood to take a trip down memory lane.
"Free agency is free agency," he said during a conference call with Baltimore-area reporters. "It's the National Football League. Players change teams, they talk to multiple teams. We've signed guys, we've had guys leave just like every other team in the league has. So that's free agency in the NFL. I don't think we should act like it's never happened before."
Belichick did entertain a question about being fired by then-owner Art Modell shortly after the Cleveland Browns' move to Baltimore was announced, despite assurances that he would remain the head coach of the relocated franchise.
"Look, I have a lot of confidence in my ability," Belichick said. "I have a lot of confidence in the coaching staff and the players that we had at that time. [Nineteen-ninety-five] wasn't obviously a great year for us [with a 5-11 record]. I don't think we need to talk about that. We all know what happened, but I think we would have been competitive. If I had been the head coach there, I think we would have been competitive.
"We had a good team, we had a good staff, we had a lot of good players, and [general manager OzzieNewsome] did a good job with that team, made it better, and they won a championship five years later with some of the same players that we started with. But that wasn't my choice. Ted [Marchibroda] came in there and was a good transition for what they needed at that time."