As Steve Smith Sr. prepares for surgery, Ravens prepare to move on without him

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken (11) is stopped by San Diego Chargers cornerback Steve Williams (23) during the second half of an NFL football game in Baltimore, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015. The Ravens defeated the Chargers 29-26.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken (11) is stopped by San Diego Chargers cornerback Steve Williams (23) during the second half of an NFL football game in Baltimore, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015. The Ravens defeated the Chargers 29-26. (Gail Burton / Associated Press)

There is no ambiguity about wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.'s short-term plans. After tearing his right Achilles' tendon in the Ravens' 29-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, Smith will undergo surgery early next week, performed by renowned foot surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C., and will soon go on season-ending injured reserve.

Smith's longer-term plans, though, remain undecided, and the Ravens aren't expecting a decision from the 35-year-old on whether he plans to return for his 16th season anytime soon.


"He didn't express any decisions to me one way or the other," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh who spoke to Smith on Monday. "Probably it's too emotional of a time right now to make any decision like that. But he'll make those decisions in due time, I'm sure."

Smith, 35, had announced before the start of the season that this year would be his last, but there seemed to be momentum in recent weeks for him to return for another year. The Ravens, who have plenty of question marks at the wide receiver position both in the present and future, need and want him to return. Before his injury, Smith was playing at a high level, ranking 11th in the NFL in receptions (46) and eighth in receiving yards (670) despite missing a game with microfractures in his back.


Several of his teammates said in the locker room following Sunday's game that they didn't believe that Smith's career was finished. Harbaugh said early in his postgame news conference Sunday that he thinks Smith will be back but acknowledged later that it was more a feeling of his than any official announcement.

Asked Monday if he'll try to persuade the five-time Pro Bowl selection to come back for another year, Harbaugh said that he'll "respect" Smith, and certainly keep the door open. Smith has one season left on the three-year contract that he signed with the Ravens following his release from the Carolina Panthers.

"He's a great player," Harbaugh said. "It's really up to him."

Meanwhile, the Ravens (2-6) will be forced to make do for the rest of the 2015 season without their top offensive weapon. Smith was responsible for more than 22 percent of Joe Flacco's completions, nearly 31 percent of the quarterback's passing yards and three of his 10 passing touchdowns. Smith's 670 receiving yards are more than double the production of the current de-facto No.1 receiver, Kamar Aiken, who has 25 catches for 333 yards and two scores.

As the Ravens began their bye week — they'll have practices Tuesday and Wednesday before players are off until Monday — Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman will be challenged with trying to find ways to allow the passing game to thrive with a makeshift group of wide receivers.

"That's what these next two practices will be about, too, trying to build on some things in every area, but in the passing game," Harbaugh said.

Of the six wideouts that made the Ravens' regular-season roster, three of them — Smith, Michael Campanaro (River Hill) and rookie Darren Waller — are done for the season after injuries. A fourth, rookie first-round pick Breshad Perriman, still hasn't played in a game as he deals with a knee injury sustained during the first full practice of training camp.

"You move on. That's what you have to do," said Harbaugh whose team plays next on Nov.15 against the Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium. "You move on to the next players and the players will be expected to step up and play at a high level, the highest possible level. That's our expectation. It never changes.

"You're never going to use excuses. You're never going to say that we don't have enough firepower or ammunition or anything like that. You're never going to say that because we don't believe it. You always believe that we have players in the pipeline that can get the job done."

Harbaugh acknowledged that general manager Ozzie Newsome and the team's front office was looking around the league and at the free agent market for potential help. They are working out a number of wide receivers, including former New York Giants starter Hakeem Nicks, on Tuesday. The Ravens could also opt to promote rookie Daniel Brown, who starred during the preseason, from the practice squad.

"I wouldn't rule out that we'd bring in another receiver from somewhere," Harbaugh said. "Obviously, we're looking real hard right now to figure out what we're going to do."

For now, Harbaugh and Flacco showed support for the group of healthy receivers on the Ravens' 53-man roster. After Smith went down late in the third quarter against the Chargers, Aiken caught five passes for 59 yards and also drew the decisive pass-interference penalty that put Justin Tucker in position to kick the game-winning 39-yard field goal.


Acquired from the St. Louis Rams last month, Chris Givens had his best game as a Raven with three receptions for 57 yards. While Marlon Brown continues to struggle to make an impact, the Ravens have been trying to get Jeremy Ross more involved. Harbaugh also said Monday that "it's time for [Jeremy Butler] to be ready." Butler was elevated from the practice squad a week ago.

"Obviously it makes it a little bit tougher than we'd like, but we've played a game this year without [Smith], and I think our guys did a great job stepping up," Flacco said Sunday. "We were able to put some offense up, put some points on the board. The next guy steps up. It's not like we're just going to be playing with a ghost out there. We're going to have a guy that's perfectly capable of making a ton of plays, and we're going to have to rely on them to do so."

Givens said that the receiving corps is ready for the challenge.

"It's just time to go," Givens said. "[Smith's] our leader, emotionally, and everything. When you see something like that, you just want to go out and show him and show everybody else that we're not going to slow down. We're still going to make plays."


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