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Ravens CB Jimmy Smith on Earl Thomas’ release: ‘If you’re not part of us, we don’t really need you’

"I've never played so many different positions before," said Smith. "Not really that much of a learning curve. It is something new, but I'm enjoying it."

Few Ravens have a better understanding of the the team’s culture and organizing principles than cornerback Jimmy Smith. Over 10 years in Baltimore, Smith has started 83 games, played under three coordinators and lined up with two Pro Football Hall of Fame defenders.

So while the dark clouds that hung over the team after Earl Thomas III’s confrontation last month with Chuck Clark were “unfortunate,” Smith said Friday, he did not seem surprised by the Ravens’ decision to terminate the Pro Bowl safety’s contract, either.

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Asked indirectly about what the incident said about the team, Smith said in a video conference call: “I believe that the Ravens organization stands by certain principles. It’s a certain type of culture here, and no matter who you are, you’ve got to be part of us. And if you’re not part of us, we don’t really need you.”

And why does that matter? “Because chemistry is everything,” Smith said. “I mean, chemistry in your room, chemistry on the team, that means a lot.”

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Amid a highly publicized secondary shakeup this training camp, Smith quietly went about preparing for his own reinvention. The longtime outside cornerback, whom coach John Harbaugh said last month has had a “really good camp,” could see time at safety this season.

With Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Tavon Young atop the cornerback depth chart, Smith said he’s “never played so many different positions before.” But he’s learned to see the fun in the new responsibilities, even if the job might require more patience than it did in the prime of his career.

“You’re not used to standing on the sideline or just not [being] in every single play,” Smith said. “But at the same time, I had to realize where I’m at. I’m in the twilight years of my career, and the role that I’m playing, actually, I feel like it’s an important role. I can make an impact on the game, and I feel like that’s the main thing. I want to be able to help the team.”

Smith said he couldn’t see himself helping another team — not just this season, but beyond it, too. “It’s going to happen as long as I keep calling it,” he said. Smith indicated that while the coronavirus pandemic hurt his free-agent market, “the whole plan was to get back here anyway.” He ultimately signed a one-year extension worth up to $6 million in March.

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In July, Smith showed up to camp looking like a new man. “Jimmy’s legit,” Harbaugh said. Smith’s playing weight is over 10 pounds lighter than it was last year, and a message from Harbaugh might’ve been an indirect cause.

Smith happened to be stuck in quarantine with his personal trainer, who worked him out “every day” while they were living together. They focused on keeping Smith lean and mobile because, he said, “once you [reach] that over-30, -32 age range, everybody wants to talk about how old you are, all of a sudden.”

Midway through the offseason, Harbaugh texted Smith, asking him to arrive to camp in the best shape of his life. His trainer took the challenge to heart, Smith said, “and kicked my butt this offseason.”

“He was a very big, thick guy in his low 220s,” Harbaugh said last month. “He’s maybe 207 [pounds] now, 208, somewhere in there, and I really think it’s helped him. I think he looks quick and fast and really, really looks good out there. Jimmy’s having a really good camp.”

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