When Jimmy Smith suffered a torn Achilles late in the year on Dec. 3, there was concern he wouldn’t have enough time to completely rehab before for the start of the 2018 season.
Nearly four months later, there’s hope Smith will be ready for Week 1 and maybe even sooner.
“He seems like he’s doing well,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday from the annual owners meetings in Florida. “[Head trainer] Mark Smith says he’s on schedule; maybe ahead of schedule a little bit. I’m kind of counting on him for the season; to start the season and maybe to start training camp.”
Harbaugh then paused, smiled and added: “I’m kind of really counting on him to be there. That’s the hope.”
Smith has been a constant presence at the Under Armour Performance Center this offseason, focusing all his time on getting healthy.
He dealt with Achilles soreness for much of the year before it tore in Week 13, yet still played at such a high level that there was talk that he could finally be voted into his first Pro Bowl.
In the 13 games he played, Smith only allowed 23 receptions for 292 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. He didn’t allow a touchdown and picked up three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. He also returned a fumble for a score.
The Ravens have some insurance just in case Smith isn’t ready to go. He’s only played all 16 games twice in his seven years in the league. If he’s not 100 percent, the team may want to ease him into the season by slowly increasing his snap count each week, which is a luxury they can afford with two other starting-caliber corners on the roster.
Marlon Humphrey is heading into his second year after being drafted with the Ravens’ first-round pick. He proved he’s more than capable of handling the load. Baltimore also picked up Brandon Carr’s 2018 contract option to ensure the 11-year veteran, who has never missed a game in his career, will stick around.
The Ravens expect 2016 fourth-round pick Tavon Young to return from an ACL injury. Former sixth-rounder Maurice Canady and undrafted second-year player Jaylen Hill will also be in the rotation.
Achilles tears like Smith’s usually require six to eight months to recover, but he’s seen first-hand that the timeline could be faster. In 2013, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs returned five months after tearing his Achilles. Even if Smith takes the entire eight months, he’d be back in early August.
“We have the best training staff in the NFL to get him back. I went through it twice and they got me back,” Suggs said when Smith went down in December. “Jimmy will be back next year, full-fledged, ready to go and he’ll still come back and be one of the best corners in the league.”