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At 36, Age Is Just A Number For Steve Smith Sr.

Steve Smith has answered questions about his age for years.

How much longer will he play? Can he compete with younger talent? Does he still have good football left in him?

The line of questioning came up again Thursday after the Ravens' second practice of Organized Team Activities, and the 36-year-old receiver once again stressed to reporters that he doesn't expect his age to slow him down going into his 15th NFL season. 

"I think that age is a number," Smith said. "Right now I feel good and I'm playing well, so I think that 36 is good."

Smith is entering his second season with the Ravens after spending his first 13 with the Carolina Panthers. He's in the twilight of his historic career, but he hasn't said publicly how much longer he plans to continue playing.

The only hint he gave is that he won't play into his 40s like Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice.

"Jerry Rice is obviously the greatest wide receiver to ever play. And I really don't have the family structure to chase 40, to be honest," Smith said. "I have a lot of things on my to-do list that don't have anything to do with football. So I'm going to take it day-by-day, but I will not be playing when I'm 40."

Smith announced soon after the Ravens' season ended in January that he planned to play again in 2015, and he never hesitated on that decision. During a seven-hour car trip back to his home in North Carolina after the playoff loss to the Patriots, he already knew he wanted to return.

"I left here knowing what my plans were and my family knew what the plans were," Smith said.

Smith showed last season he still had the ability to perform at an elite level. He quickly established himself as the Ravens' top receiver, and he led the team with 79 catches for 1,065 yards. It was the eighth 1,000-yard season of Smith's career.

"Yeah, I'm 36, and I remember last year when I signed here you guys weren't expecting anything from a 35 year old. And now you can pick on me because I'm 36," he said. "I'm just going to play football and practice. I think I look halfway decent. I think there are teams that probably drafted a wide receiver hoping that they could get a guy fresh out of college to put up 1,000 yards like I did."

Smith has used criticism as motivation throughout his career.

Last year, he brought up an old scouting report from a magazine published before the 2001 draft that questioned his ability to make the transition to the NFL. The 5-foot-9 receiver spent the early years of his career facing questions about whether he was big enough for the NFL.

So when did the age questions start?

"Oh, probably after the height questions stopped," Smith quipped with a smile. "It's just one of those things. I always have someone questioning the height, prototype or age. It's always something."

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