Ravens’ Smith is down, but not out

BALTIMORE, Md. — I knew it was bad as soon as it happened.

In the third quarter of the Baltimore Ravens’ 29-26 win over the San Diego Chargers, Steve Smith Sr. caught a pass from Joe Flacco, turned upfield for a healthy gain, and went down in a heap, pointing to his foot.  The injury itself wasn’t readily apparent, but the reaction to it said everything.

Bear in mind, this was the dude who just a few weeks ago broke his back and played two weeks later. Over the years, Smith has earned his rep as one of the baddest players in the league (in a Shaft way, not a Greg Hardy way), so seeing him pound the turf in pain and actually shed tears can’t be good.

It wasn’t. The Ravens announced after the game Smith will miss the rest of the season with a torn Achilles. This past summer, the 36-year-old Smith announced this — his 15th NFL season — would be his last. He’s played in a Super Bowl, been to multiple Pro Bowls and has legitimate Hall-of-Fame numbers (his 13,932 yards are 10th all-time). Thus, it makes sense to assume this season-ending injury is also a career-ender. A tough break for a tough player.

Not so fast.

While we have to acknowledge the possibility he’s done, I find it to be highly unlikely. Since the injury, several reports have surfaced that Smith intends to come back in 2016. Considering the only thing Smith is known for more than his toughness (and his temper) is his competitiveness, I wouldn’t expect anything else. The image of Smith shedding tears into a towel while being helped off the field won’t be the last image of him in an NFL stadium. His pride — and perhaps his DNA — simply won’t allow it.

We’ve seen guys like this before. Smith is like a modern day Brian Mitchell: a little big guy. Smith is a bit smaller than he’s listed (5-foot-9-inches, 195 pounds), but he plays like a guy who’s 6-feet-5-inches, 240 lbs. Dudes like that rarely go down, and if they do, they certainly don’t stay down.

Redskins fans will recall DeAngelo Hall recovered from a torn Achilles this past offseason, returning to the field to start for the ‘Skins at corner despite a lengthy rehab and relatively advanced age (31). Yes, Hall is hurt again but Smith’s entire career has been centered on being the exception to whatever rules are there to hold him down.

This isn’t Carolina. Baltimore loves Smith, has a genuine need for his presence on and off the field, and wants him back. Though essentially by default, Smith was the team’s leading receiver before he got hurt (46 catches, 670 yards, 3 touchdowns in seven games). So he’s still productive, and perhaps even more dangerous with an added chip on his shoulder.

After the game Sunday, coach John Harbaugh said, “I have a feeling Steve Smith is going to be back … that’s the kind of man he is. He’ll be back.”

Back from the injury? Definitely. Back in a Ravens uniform? I wouldn’t bet against it.

Smith has 961 career catches and has yet to win a Super Bowl. Good luck standing in the way of him accomplishing both feats in 2016. After all, Baltimore has a propensity to only go on Super Bowl runs during election years, right?

And if I know Steve Smith, he’ll want to outdo Ray Lewis’ grand finale.

Now see how Smith’s old team did in the finale to the Week 8 Recap.

Rob Woodfork

Rob Woodfork is WTOP's Senior Sports Content Producer, which includes duties as producer and host of the DC Sports Huddle, nightside sports anchor and sports columnist on WTOP.com.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up