Patrick Semansky/Associated Press
This is the portion of the offseason where the vets get a pass. The Ravens had a very good turnout at OTAs, but veterans like Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Chris Canty have earned the right to skip the voluntary sessions, and they all took advantage of that.
Steve Smith did not do so, however.
Part of that is obviously because he’s joining a new team, but it’s clear from all reports that he’s not taking these practices lightly. In fact, he’s doing just the opposite—and he’s already proving why general manager Ozzie Newsome made a wise move by signing the 35-year-old receiver.
An underwhelming 2013 season prompted Smith to consider retirement after this year, per Don Banks of Sports Illustrated, but his release from the Carolina Panthers seems to have given him a second wind, as he’s attacking workouts with unrivaled ferocity.
In fact, Hensley went so far as to opine that Smith is practicing harder than the one and only Ray Lewis did (blasphemy, I know):
He runs every drill at full speed, which rubs off on his fellow wide receivers and tests the Ravens' cornerbacks. The Ravens have had intense players in the past like Ray Lewis and Anquan Boldin, but neither practiced at this level during their last few years with the team.
New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak echoed those sentiments, marveling at Smith’s competitiveness, according to Wilson:
Each day he's getting more comfortable with what we're doing. He's just so competitive. He brings an edge to practice all the time. He challenges people as far as how you play, how you go about doing things.
He challenged coaches, too. Every good offense that I've been around has had a few of those guys saying, 'Get me the ball, coach.' And that's a good thing. That's what you want. He works to get the ball, so that's what's impressive to me.
What’s amazing is that he’s been so valuable, even if you don’t consider his on-field performance. Entering his 14th season in the league, Smith has been through it all and will serve as a very valuable mentor to young bucks like Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown, among others.
Torrey Smith talked to Bo Smolka of CSN Baltimore about the elder Smith’s impact:
He’s always pulling me aside, telling me something even if I already knew it. He’ll tell you, ‘Man, I’m going to be on you. I’m going to be on you.’ You can never be good enough, and I appreciate that. I’m picking his brain and learning, and he’s a great teacher as well.
It’s still early on, but the Smith signing looks like another feather in Newsome’s very cluttered GM hat.