John Harbaugh stood at the podium after Thursday's game against the Panthers and talked about being pleased with the performance of his defense. He said he was impressed with the play of his cornerbacks.
And then he flipped the script on the reporters asking questions.
"I'm waiting for the Jimmy Smith question," Harbaugh said. "Got one for me?"
Throughout the week, the coaching staff fielded numerous questions about the former first-round pick following a rough outing against the Atlanta Falcons. Smith took his share of criticism in the media, with pundits questioning whether he was ready to take on a starting role this season.
But then Smith came back with a strong showing against the Panthers, and nobody seemed interested in asking about him until prompted by Harbaugh.
Finally a journalist bit, and asked for Harbaugh's analysis on Smith's performance.
"Jimmy Smith played very well," Harbaugh said. "He was physical at the line. They have excellent receivers over there, and I think he did a nice job.
"Thanks for asking."
Smith has been under scrutiny* *this preseason going into his third NFL season. Injuries have limited his effectiveness the last two years, and he knows that the criticism comes with the territory.
Cornerbacks play on an island where their mistakes are magnified, and as a former first-round pick, the expectations are high.
"That's the life of a corner," Smith said. "You can have 99 great plays and then one touchdown on you, and it looks bad."
Smith has drawn praise from the coaching staff throughout training camp and the preseason, and his performance Thursday night was a step the right direction. He played the first two-and-half quarters against the Panthers and he did not allow a catch. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw his direction twice, but both passes fell incomplete.
"I feel like I played my game, put my hands on the receivers and pressed a lot, so it was pretty solid," Smith said.
Coming into the game, Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees emphasized to Smith to be more physical with receivers. The 6-foot-2, 210-pund pound cornerback has the size to overpower receivers, but he did not use that to his advantage last week against the Falcons.
"It was basically me just being more aggressive at the line," he said. "I wasn't being aggressive and I gave them too much credit and too much space, and didn't play my game. So this week I just wanted to come out and play my game."
Smith started the game alongside cornerback Corey Graham, and then veteran corner Lardarius Webb made his return to the lineup when the Ravens went into their nickel package. Webb is the team's top corner, and Smith and Graham are competing to join him in the starting lineup.
Regardless of whether he opens the season as one of the team's starting corners, the Ravens are counting on Smith to have a big season, and the cornerback is confident he's making the improvements for that to happen.
"I feel personally like I'm progressing pretty well, and the coaches have been thinking the same," Smith said. "As far as I know, things have been going pretty well. Obviously I can always grow, and that's what I'm looking to do every week."