OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Steve Smith has played 13 NFL seasons, loves to talk about football and craves winning.
The qualities make the veteran wide receiver a welcome addition to a Baltimore Ravens locker room that last year sorely missed the leadership of Ray Lewis and Anquan Boldin.
“He brings something completely different than anyone else,” fourth-year receiver Torrey Smith said, “and we can all learn from him.”
Steve Smith signed with the Ravens as a free agent in March, just one day after his release by the Carolina Panthers. Since his arrival, the 35-year-old has provided guidance to younger players and become a reliable target for quarterback Joe Flacco.
That’s what Boldin did for the 2012 Super Bowl champions before he was traded to San Francisco in a cost-cutting move.
“Steve is a confident, energizing person on the field, a very competitive, `Give me the ball, coach’ type of guy — which is what you want,” Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said.
Smith previously spent his entire pro career in Carolina. He played in 182 games, caught 836 passes for 12,197 yards and scored 69 touchdowns. In addition, in nine playoff games the 5-foot-9 speedster had 51 receptions and scored nine TDs.
Given his performance thus far in the preseason, Smith still has plenty to give. In Baltimore’s 23-17 win over Washington on Saturday, Smith had six catches for 80 yards in just 30 minutes of work.
The highlights: A sideline catch in which he broke several tackles for a 30-yard gain and a diving grab for a 24-yard touchdown.
“That’s what you hope for, in terms of a guy like that,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “How many times over the years have we seen him make a catch? Take a wide turn out of a break and make yards or bounce off tacklers? Then that catch in the end zone, that’s kind of vintage Steve Smith. It was great to see that.”
Just another day at the office for Smith, who is intent upon proving that his advancing age isn’t a factor in his ability to be a playmaker.
“You come here in free agency and everybody has a question,” he said. “You know, will he be able to play? What kind of plays can he make? So you go out there and you’re excited. You want to make plays.”
Smith starred in Carolina for well over a decade, and his mission now is to do more of the same with the Ravens.
“People are always going to say, `OK, it’s great what he did over here, but he’s not there anymore, so what’s he going to bring to the table?”‘ Smith said. “That’s what I want to show, what I bring to the table.”
He certainly didn’t look like a 35-year-old against the Redskins.
“Because of my age, people kind of second-guess it,” Smith said. “I told coach, that’s what you brought me here to do, make plays.”
If Saturday’s preseason game was any indication, Smith will be seeing quite a few footballs headed his way once the regular season begins on Sept. 7.
“He catches the ball great. When he gets to it, he catches it,” Flacco said. “He runs with the ball well. He’s strong, he’s powerful, he’s quick, he’s fast, so he can break tackles. He’s going to help us out a lot. We’re getting on the same page; every day we’re getting better and better.”
For Smith, the transition from Carolina into a new offense with new teammates and a different coaching staff has been surprisingly smooth. The Ravens, similarly, immediately embraced the five-time Pro Bowler.
“It’s been great. He’s all in,” wide receivers coach Bobby Engram said. “Smitty is a worker. He’s made a lot of plays in this league; he has not lost an edge. He’s been a great addition for the receiving room and for our team as a whole. He’s a leader.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)