Torrey: "My Teammates Helped Me Through This"
A team is not a family, but a team comes closest to the fabric of that fundamental social group based on blood relationships.
Family involves commitment to one another, bonds that transcend friendships and other relationships. Teams become like family, and no better example of that is the way our guys rallied around Torrey Smith after his brother Tevin died last Sunday morning.
The focus last Sunday quickly shifted from finding ways to beat the Patriots to, "How can we help Torrey and his family right now?" The message was clear: "Go be with your family. Is there any way we can help you?" That message was delivered by Coach John Harbaugh, teammates and security staff at 2 o'clock on Sunday morning.
We all know Torrey's story. His college coach, Maryland's Ralph Friedgen, called the Ravens' wide receiver "the perfect person." Torrey may not be perfect, but there is no doubt he is special. (And how about his 18-yard touchdown last night!) He helped his mother raise his six younger brother and sisters, including making breakfast for his siblings when he was only four years old. You only have to spend a little time with Torrey and his family to see how tight their bond is.
Last Sunday, we never asked Torrey if he was going to come back from meeting with his family in Northern Virginia to play in our game against the Patriots. But, none of us were surprised when he walked into the pre-game chapel service that afternoon. His mother Monica encouraged him to return to the team, and Torrey felt a commitment to his teammates.
"My teammates helped get me through this. I love them to death," Smith said after the thrilling victory over the Patriots. "Coach Harbs, the players, the others in the organization … I mean, I don't know what to say. They were so respectful to me and my family. Wow, I'm fortunate to be with them. It's like I was meant to be with the Ravens."
We all saw what Torrey did against New England. Could we have won without him? Maybe not. Six catches for 127 yards with two touchdowns – with that weight on his shoulders. He did this between shedding tears and prayers on the sideline. Spectacular as the game was – weren't all of our hearts pounding in the fourth quarter? – Smith's real-life drama transcended it all.
Even after the game in that happy locker room gathering, the focus shifted to Torrey. We remembered his brother in a prayer, and then Harbs gave a game ball to Torrey.
When we moved closer for a team huddle – when that family of Ravens stood shoulder-to-shoulder around the grieving Torrey Smith – the mature young receiver spoke haltingly through his tears:
"I want to thank all of you – for all of your support. Man, this is new territory for me. This is tough. If it wasn't for all of you, I don't think I'd be here today. I appreciate all the support. You made me feel better, and this is going to make this fight a lot easier … a lot easier to get through. I just appreciate you all. I love you all – coaches, players and everyone else. I just thank you."
Torrey tried to say something else, but his words didn't come out through his tears. As he had done throughout the game with encouraging words and pats on the shoulder, Joe Flacco stepped up to break that intimate huddle – all arms reaching skyward over Torrey's head – "Ravens on three," Joe shouted, "one, two, three: Ravens."
As the huddle broke, there stood Coach Harbaugh and Torrey in an intense hug, and you could hear John say: "We love you. I love you."
Moment of Silence Decision
A number of us discussed whether we should do a moment of silence prior to the Patriots' game to salute Tevin Jones, Torrey's brother. Historically, we had not done this for deaths of family members for other Ravens. For example, we had not publicly saluted Ed Reed's brother two years ago, nor Pernell McPhee's sister this preseason. Would that be disrespectful to them? Was it different because Tevin died on a game day?
Rather than guessing what would be the right thing for the team, Harbs asked a few of the team leaders, including Reed. All players said we should do the salute. We then asked Torrey if he would be OK with it, and he humbly said his family would be honored.
The Media Parade
At the end of a nationally-televised game, the winning team is required to immediately complete seven interviews on the field. For last Sunday's game, these interviews were conducted by NBC-TV, ESPN, the NFL Network, our local radio partner (WBAL/98 Rock), national radio, national Spanish radio and our local TV partner (Comcast).
When our game-winning drive started with one minute, 55 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, NBC's Michele Tafoya, ESPN's Sal Paolantonio and other national reporters were huddled near the New England bench ready to interview the winning Patriots. The group didn't budge when Joe Flacco opened the drive with a 24-yard completion to Jacoby Jones. You could see a little movement from them when Joe hit Dennis Pitta for 17 yards to the New England 35 with 1:21 on the clock.
By the time the interference call on Jones on the 7-yard line was being announced with 52 seconds left in the game, the media group was in full sprint around the outside of the field heading to our bench area.
There is no doubt that watching that group of reporters run to our bench was one of the best sights in our business. We were very happy to see that stampede and ready to comply with any requests they had.
Enjoy the weekend. Know that whatever happens in the NFL, the Ravens (3-1) are in first place in the AFC North with one quarter of the regular season completed. Not a bad place to be.
Talk with you next week.