Thursday, June 12, 2014
What defenders shouldn't do to Steve Smith
By Jamison Hensley
Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees remembers the advice he gave his players whenever his defenders faced wide receiver Steve Smith and the Carolina Panthers.
"The first thing I told the defensive backs in the room was, ‘Look, don’t get him mad. He plays a lot harder when he’s mad. Just leave him alone. Let a sleeping dog lay,'" Pees said.
Smith hasn't changed his impassioned attitude in his first season with a new team and a new offense.
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.
"He’s just so competitive. He brings an edge to practice all the time," offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. "He challenges people, as far as how you play and how you go about doing [your work]. He’s challenged coaches, too. Every good offense that I’ve been around, I’ve had a few of those guys saying, ‘Get me the ball, Coach!’ and that’s a good thing, and that’s what you want. He works to get the ball, so that’s what’s impressive to me.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera expressed concern that Smith would wear himself down by the way he practices. At 35 years old, Smith is the oldest player on the Ravens' roster.
But the Ravens haven't asked Smith to tone it down. In fact, it's one of the reasons the Ravens signed him to a three-year, $11.5 million contract in free agency.
“You definitely see the fire," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "I’ve known Steve for a couple of years now, but to actually play with him and see the way he works, he takes everything serious, he’s very passionate and there are some people … I guess if you’re not used to a guy who’s passionate about his job, it comes off as raunchy, but it fits here. There are plenty of guys like that here. He’s perfect for us."
Smith is getting better every week with the Ravens because he's becoming more comfortable with Kubiak's offense.
On Wednesday, he continually beat defenders on slants and out-muscled corners for contested passes. Kubiak said it was Smith's best practice as a Raven so far.
“Steve Smith, I could use some adjectives,” Pees said. “He’s a pain in a good way. The guy is a heck of a player. He’s everything advertised."