In his 11th season with the Ravens, Jimmy Smith is realistic about where his career stands. He's near the end of the line, but if the Ravens need him, he'll give them everything he has.
The veteran cornerback admits that he often thinks about the possibility of this being his last season.
"Absolutely, I think about it," said Smith, as the Ravens prepare to host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. "It always crosses your mind when you get older. But especially how this year went. I didn't play a ton, and then I was hurt dealing with stupid little injuries.
"Part of it is, 'Do I even want to put my body through something like this again?' So I do cherish these last games. There's four games left against top teams, and we need to win. I'm ready to get out there and do what I can do."
A first-round pick in 2011, Smith was one of the NFL's top cover corners – 6-foot-2 with a wide wingspan and off-the-charts athleticism. Not only was Smith excellent in coverage, he had the toughness to play physically and would sacrifice his body to make a play.
But that body has taken a beating, and staying healthy has been a career-long battle for Smith. He has missed at least four games in seven of his 11 seasons, and this year an ankle injury suffered in training camp sidelined Smith for the first two games and hampered him much longer than he expected.
There's only been one game this season when Smith has played at least 50 percent of the defensive snaps, and he understands why.
"I'm at my best now with fewer snaps," Smith said. "I'm getting old. I've been through a lot of injuries and they start to pile up on you."
Smith didn't play last weekend against the Cleveland Browns, remaining in Baltimore to witness the birth of his fourth child and first daughter, Jayda, who was born Sunday just a few hours before kickoff. Smith's original plan was to join the team in Cleveland last Saturday night after Jayda was born, but labor lasted 36 hours into Sunday morning. An exhausted Smith was forced to watch the game on television with mixed emotions – ecstatic about his newborn, but frustrated about the Ravens' loss.
It remains to be seen how much Smith will play against the Packers. Anthony Averett and Chris Westry started at cornerback against the Browns, with Tavon Young and Kevon Seymour also in the cornerback rotation.
Smith played a season-high 42 snaps Week 13 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the game in which All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey suffered a season-ending pectoral injury on the next-to-last defensive play. Meanwhile, Smith is also capable of playing snaps at safety, and starting safety Chuck Clark was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday.
No matter how much Smith plays on Sunday, he believes he can also help young corners Westry and Seymour prepare for facing Aaron Rodgers, an all-time great quarterback. Smith plans to communicate with his fellow secondary members a lot on Sunday, whether he's in the game or on the sideline.
"I've seen a lot, so I can see how they're doing, maybe give them a word to play a coverage like this, or like that," Smith said. "I can see the quarterback, read what he's doing, then talk to them on the sidelines, maybe see something that can help them when they get on the field.
"We've got some really good young guys, but experience counts for a lot, especially in the secondary in December football. We're asking younger guys to play immediately and learn immediately. We don't have a choice, but they're talented."
If this is Smith's last season, he's not sure what he wants to do next. He's proud of his career and one of the highlights was his game-saving play in Super Bowl XLVII in his second season, when he preserved the Ravens' victory by making back-to-back stops on the goal line on the San Francisco 49ers' final drive.
Smith is definitely looking forward to spending more time with his family, but he also knows he'll miss the game.
"I've got three boys and now a girl," Smith said. "With the boys, they're old enough I can start getting them into sports. They're getting active. I've got time to figure out stuff long-term. I'm in no rush to get to work or anything. I don't have to, so that's a blessing.
"It's more a situation of trying to figure out what I'm passionate about. You spend your whole life playing football, it's kind of weird to not have it. Is it going to be what I think it is? Everybody, I've talked to about it, they miss the locker room and the bond a team has."
The Ravens have been the only team that Smith has ever wanted to play for. That has been reinforced this season, and he's proud of the way they've handled so many injuries, refusing to give in.
In whatever way he's utilized the last four games, Smith is looking forward to the challenge. He believes the Ravens have what it takes to make the playoffs, and that they can make noise if they get there.
Smith will focus on his future once the season ends, but right now, he's determined to help his teammates persevere to the end.
"Man, it's the Ravens," Smith said. "We could be down to nothing but practice squad guys, the mentality we have won't change. Coach (John) Harbaugh won't change. The belief that we should win ain't ever going to change. That's the mentality here, and I love it."