“I cared about the game plan that we had going into the second half, but the first thing I did was go find Jimmy because this is bigger than football,” he said after the team’s 44-20 win at M&T Bank Stadium. “You’ve got love for a guy when he comes in and works hard every day and week in and week out. It hurts.”
Smith, who has been battling a left Achilles tendon injury since a 26-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 1, tore the tendon while covering a Lions receiver along the Detroit sideline with 4:09 left in the second quarter. He will miss the remainder of the season.
Smith was backpedaling when he appeared to take a little hop and step before dropping to the turf. In obvious pain, Smith buried his face in his hands. After a few minutes with the team’s medical staff, he was carried off the field with a smile on his face and taken immediately to the locker room.
Despite the ailment, Smith, 29, had not missed a start this year. In fact, he had collected three interceptions, returned one for a touchdown, and returned a fumble for a score.
“He has played so well,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He has played, I think, at an All-Pro level this year. … We have really good players. They kind of pulled it together after those drives, but when he was out, it probably did make a difference. It’s different than it has been before.”
Smith’s impending absence should usher rookie Marlon Humphrey into a starting role opposite Brandon Carr. Humphrey, the organization’s first-round pick in April’s NFL draft, has been eased into his first year in the league, but has been biding his time.
On his sixth defensive snap of the second half, Humphrey gave up a 42-yard pass from Matthew Stafford to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. that set up a 4-yard touchdown run by running back Theo Riddick with 12:11 left in the third quarter. But after that, Humphrey fared well, including picking up the second interception of his pro career in the fourth quarter.
“It’s funny because I told him earlier in the week, ‘We’re counting on you. We need you,’ ” strong safety Tony Jefferson said. “So he was really locked in this whole week, took care of his body, and he’s starting to look like a pro. So I’m happy and excited for his growth.”