Monday, September 24, 2012
Ravens rally around emotional Torrey Smith
By Jamison Hensley
Torrey Smith, who had 127 yards and two touchdowns, didn't know if he would play Sunday night.
BALTIMORE -- There was no boasting in the Baltimore Ravens' locker room about getting redemption for a loss in the AFC Championship Game. There was no line of Baltimore players griping about the questionable calls of the replacement officials like the previous Sunday.
The Ravens' come-from-behind 31-30 victory over the New England Patriots was about wide receiver Torrey Smith putting his heart into a game when it was hurting the most. It was a testament to Smith's perseverance in the wake of tragedy.
Hours -- not days -- after losing his younger brother Tevin in a motorcycle accident, Smith was there for his football family after the players were there for him all during the day. He finished with 127 yards and two touchdowns on six catches in a game that was defined more by moments than statistics.
The prime-time game began with a moment of silence for Tevin and ended with coach John Harbaugh handing the game ball to Smith in the locker room. According to one observer, Smith walked to the middle of the huddle to take the ball and started crying before telling everyone how much they meant to him.
"I have my family, and I have you as my family," Smith told them. "I couldn't have done it without you guys."
The Ravens couldn't have rallied to beat the Patriots without Smith. Trailing 13-0 after the first quarter, Smith's 25-yard touchdown catch got the Ravens on the scoreboard. Trailing by six points in the third quarter, Smith helped the Ravens get their first lead with two big plays -- a third-down conversion and a 32-yard grab -- to set up a Ray Rice touchdown. And trailing by nine points in the fourth quarter, Smith's 5-yard touchdown pulled Baltimore to within 30-28.
After each of his touchdowns, the sellout crowd of 71,269 at M&T Bank Stadium chanted "Torrey, Torrey, Torrey." Smith, though, took a private moment after his first score to kneel in the end zone and say a prayer.
"Obviously, you play with a heavy heart," Smith said. "You want to play for that person."
When Smith learned about the news regarding his 19-year-old brother, he left the team hotel shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday to be with his family in northeast Virginia. He told Harbaugh before he left that he wanted to play, but he didn't make the decision until hours before the game.
Smith returned to his team and could get only an hour of sleep. He spent the day talking to teammates and was part of an emotional church service with the team.
When he got to the stadium around 4 p.m., about four hours before kickoff, Smith texted his mother that he was thinking of playing. Her response: his brother would want him to play.
"What it came down to was, being a receiver, you've got to have your mind clear," Smith said. "You can't have anything weighing on you [because] that's going to cause you to drop the ball or have mistakes. I didn't want to hurt my team. I came here, and the more I was running, the more comfortable I began to feel. I'm glad I came back here. I think it helped me out a lot."
The Ravens take pride in being a family, and their ties have been strengthened through tragedy. It was in January 2011 when the Ravens dedicated a 30-7 playoff win at Kansas City to safety Ed Reed after his brother drowned only days before.
"It's just something about having two families," Reed said. "When I went through losing my brother, being around these guys, it really helped me get through. To play and have the game he had, that's when we all have to sit back and know that God is working."
Emotions have been high since the opening kickoff of the season.
Former majority owner Art Modell died three days before the Ravens' 44-13 win over the Bengals. The Ravens are wearing decals honoring Modell on their helmet and have "Art" written along the sideline at the stadium.
"We're facing a different fight with everything that's been going on the past few weeks with Art Modell," Rice said. "We've all been playing with a chip on our shoulder. Torrey Smith is one of the hardest working guys on our team. So, he would have had to be broken not to play."
Smith played a major role in leading the comeback, although he didn't have a catch in the winning 70-yard drive in the final two minutes of the game. The Ravens, however, say Smith had an impact because he was always on their minds.
It didn't matter that the Ravens fell behind by 13 points in the first quarter or nine points in the fourth. It didn't matter that they were penalized 14 times for 135 yards. Those challenges paled in comparison to what Smith faced all game.
"Understand that there is something way bigger than why we're here today, and that's what the whole message was," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "It was a whole different vibe on the sideline. Sometimes you get mad when things go wrong. Tonight there was a calmness."
His teammates talked about how the game was a temporary escape for Smith. But reality was starting to set in for Smith following the game.
He talked about how his brother's birthday was Oct. 6. Tevin was going to come up to Baltimore on Thursday to watch the Ravens play the Browns and "raid my house all week," according to Smith.
Losing a loved one is extremely difficult. For Smith, his relationship with Tevin extended beyond that of a sibling. With his mother working and going to school, Smith took care of his six younger siblings and became a father figure to them. Smith tweeted early Sunday that the death of his brother is "the hardest thing ever."
"He had a great heart," Smith said of his brother. "A lot of people say that all the time when people pass, but he truly was that person. When you see him mad, you'd always laugh because it didn't look right. To be around him, his big smile and his laugh, which was one of the most annoying laughs ever, I'm definitely going to miss him. It's a tough loss for us."