Just over a year ago, Ravens receiver Steve Smith declared that the 2015 season would be his last in the NFL. Now, having since gone back on that decision, the 16th-year man isn’t willing to reveal his plans beyond this season. Smith, 37, acknowledged Thursday that 2016 is his last year “contractually,” but he otherwise declined to discuss his post-2016 outlook, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com.
Smith is set to conclude his contract this year on a $3MM salary, which is a relative pittance for such a productive performer. Before tearing his Achilles last November (an event that spurred his decision to return this season), Smith totaled 46 receptions for 670 yards and three touchdowns in parts of seven games. That type of output has been par for the course throughout the career of Smith, a longtime Panther and third-year Raven who has eight 70-catch seasons, eight 1,000-yard campaigns and 76 receiving touchdowns on his resume.
While it’s unknown if his lengthy string of excellence will continue on the heels of such a serious injury, Smith seems confident he’ll remain effective.
“The bully is back. Vacation is over for the (defensive backs),” he stated.
With the 11th-most receiving yards (13,392), 15th-most catches (961) and 29th-most aerial TDs in history, Smith has a chance to continue making a case for Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement. However, the 5-foot-9, 195-pounder told reporters that numbers didn’t play into his decision to return.
“I really came back not to set any records but more because this organization gave me an opportunity,” he said. When I got hurt, I felt like I let those guys down in the locker room.”
Smith, whom the Ravens activated off the physically unable to perform list Thursday, partook in his first practice of the summer. He’s now officially back atop the Ravens’ receiving corps (depth chart), which also looks set to heavily feature Kamar Aiken and Mike Wallace. Breshard Perriman – Baltimore’s first-round pick in 2015 – missed all of last season with a sprained PCL, and another knee injury has prevented him from participating in training camp. His inability to get on the field makes Smith’s non-retirement all the more crucial for a team coming off a five-win season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.