NFL Wire News

End came too soon for Ravens WR Smith


The Sports Xchange

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The biggest challenge facing the Baltimore Ravens for the rest of the season is how to adjust to the season-ending injury to Steve Smith Sr., who tore his Achilles’ tendon in the third quarter Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.

Smith had announced in training camp that he planned to retire at the end of this season, which made the injury was even more disappointing. Smith has more receptions on the season than all of the Ravens’ other receivers combined.

“What hurts the most is I can’t be out there with my guys,” Smith said after the Ravens’ 29-26 victory. “We had a great win today and that’s really all that counts.”

Smith, who led the team with five catches for 82 yards, was injured making a 17-yard catch and run near mid-field. Prior to the injury, Smith overtook Cris Carter for 10th all-time in receiving yardage with 13,932. He has 961 catches and 76 touchdowns.

“I think anytime you watch Steve, it’s bright,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s a shining star. It has been a total honor to be able to serve as a coach to Steve Smith this season, a head coach and to be a part of what he does every single day.”

Smith will be almost impossible to replace. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco will now have to rely on Kamar Aiken, newly signed Chris Givens and a patchwork of other receivers to make plays. Flacco expressed confidence in those young receivers and contends that he has seen them get better each game.

“Those guys don’t blink,” Flacco said. “They don’t blink. They’re calling for it the whole game, and they want the opportunity to go in there and get the job done. You’ve got to be proud of the way they go up there. They’re not afraid. They want the ball, and they want it to be on them. That’s all you can ask for.”

Wide receiver Breshad Perriman, the team’s first-round pick, was expected to provide a boost as a legitimate downfield threat, but he has yet to play a snap this season because of a knee injury. Givens is now the best candidate to fill that role. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh was encouraged by the way the receivers responded when Smith went down.

“Kamar made a number of plays down the stretch, on the slant route,” Harbaugh said. “Chris made the back-shoulder play, made a down-field play at some point. I think it may have been before even Steve was out. I thought our guys did a great job. The receivers did a great job.”

There are reports that Smith, who will undergo surgery next week, would like to return next season. Ravens coach Harbaugh said the team would love to have him back. “It’s really up to him,” Harbaugh said.

–Kicker Justin Tucker has uncharacteristically missed some key field goals this season. In some instances, it was a simple case of bad luck, such as when he fell into a sinkhole as he attempted a kick in San Francisco.

Tucker showed why he is such a valuable commodity against the Chargers. He made all five of his field-goal attempts, including the game-winner as time expired. Tucker leads the league by making 19 of 22 field-goal attempts on the season.

“I’m happy to be able to come through for my team, because every single one of us knows at some point during a football season you’re going to have to be that guy to make the play,” Tucker said. “It just so happened, on a couple of wins that we have, we’ve won the field goals. That’s not indicative of the team effort that goes into just getting down the field, so we can get those three points when we need them.”

–Center Jeremy Zuttah (shoulder) was forced out of the game against the Chargers. John Urschel replaced him and had an uneven performance as he struggled to effectively snap the ball on several occasions. Zuttah will be able to use the bye week to get healthy. However, Ravens coach John Harbaugh did not know the extent of the injury Monday. If he can’t go, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco expressed confidence in Urschel.

“I work all three different positions, both guards and center throughout the week. Work through situations depending on who is healthy and who’s not,” Urschel said. “How I work varies week-to-week. I’m an interior lineman, and I back up all three.”

–Tight end Crockett Gillmore (arm) left the game against San Diego but the injury was not serious. Prior to the injury, Crockett caught his third touchdown of the season.

–Defensive tackle Brent Urban (biceps) is healthy and could return to practice “soon” after being placed on injured reserve with a designation to return list prior to the season.

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