It’s not often you hear an NFL head coach raise concerns over a player practicing too hard.
But that’s what Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera had to say about his former player and new Ravens wide receiver
“One of the things in my opinion that Steve just needs to do is to learn to tone things down,” Rivera said at the NFL owners meetings Wednesday.
“He practices very hard, he gives 100 percent, he’s going to challenge you to do those things. At his age and seniority, he has to handle himself. … He’s going to wear himself down.”
Smith turns 35 in May. He’s coming off a season in which he was banged up by injuries.
It didn’t knock him out of games, however. He only sat out the Panthers’ inconsequential regular-season finale, and returned in the playoffs with four catches for 74 yards and a 31-yard touchdown against San Francisco.
But Rivera indicated that Smith’s injuries could have been the result of practicing too hard.
“Steve wants to take every rep,” Rivera said. “We would tell Steve today’s his day off. You go out, and he’s in pads. He’d say, ‘I just want to wear them out and go through drills.’ You watch him go through drills and the next thing you know, you turn around and he’s in the team drill.
“That’s just the way he is. He wants to do everything all the time.”
The Ravens previously had another intense wide receiver in practices, and his name was Anquan Boldin. Boldin treated practices like they were games, and Smith will bring that same attitude.
Smith has drawn criticism for occasionally being too intense, however. In 2002, he was involved in a film-room fight with teammate Anthony Bright. In 2008, he was sent home from training camp after punching teammate Ken Lucas during practice.
Rivera, however, said that Smith wasn’t a problem during his three years as coach from 2011 until now.
“Steve is who Steve is,” Rivera said. “A lot of the players in the locker room have been around him awhile, so they know that’s just Steve. … For us, it wasn’t a distraction because you know what you get with Steve. You get a guy that’s fiery, excitable and very competitive.”
In fact, Rivera applauded the leadership that Smith showed in the locker room.
“He has a quirky way of finding the right guy to put his arm around, whether it’s a defensive back or another wide receiver. He is a caring guy,” Rivera said.
“He does have a lot to say and he’s got a lot of experience to share with players. … Seeing who he is and the things he tried to do in the locker room was impressive.”