Steve Smith might be 35, and perhaps the Panthers didn't think he was worth the distractions or the $7 million salary in 2014. So while his 13-year career in Carolina is over, he's found a home in Baltimore, where outspoken veteran players are not only embraced, they usually thrive.
We saw it with Derrick Mason, we saw it with Anquan Boldin, and we'll almost certainly see it with Smith. Yes, we're still six weeks away from training camp, but Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been impressed with Smith during OTAs.
“Steve Smith, I could use some adjectives,” Pees said, via the Carroll County Times' Matt Zenitz. “He's a pain in a good way. … The guy's a heck of a player. He's made some grabs out here. He's a tough guy. He's everything advertised. I'm glad he's on our team.”
Smith can also hold a grudge and turn it into motivation. Back in March, shortly after the Panthers released Smith, Carolina coach Ron Rivera said the wide receiver no longer had "top-end speed."
And maybe that's so. But Smith remains singularly focused on proving doubters wrong and that's something you can't measure with a stopwatch.
"He's just so competitive. He brings an edge to practice to all the time," said first-year Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. "He challenges people as far as how you play and how you go about doing things. He challenges coaches, too. And every good offense I've been around, I've had a few of those guys saying, ‘Get me the ball, coach,' and that's a good thing. That's what you want. But he works to get the ball, so that's what's impressive to me.”
And to think, Smith said that if the Panthers hadn't released him, he would have probably retired after the 2014 season, one of his least productive as a pro. Now Carolina will have to deal with Smith and that bigger-than-usual chip on his shoulder when he and the Ravens come to town in Week 4.