Jimmy Smith's life is very different than it was just a few months ago.
In the weeks after suffering a season-ending Lisfranc sprain to his left foot, everything was a struggle. His foot was strapped in a cast and he had to prop his leg on a scooter to wheel around everywhere. Just getting out of the house every day was challenging.
For more than two months, Smith couldn't walk normally.
Even when the boot came off about 10 weeks after Smith suffered the injury, the 26-year-old cornerback still had his work cut out for him.
"In the beginning, it was rough because of how much it hurt," Smith said during a recent interview before a rehab session at the Under Armour Performance Center. "When you get off [the boot], you have to rebuild all of those muscles and tendons, and everything is popping in there. It hurts."
Smith has come a long way since that point. He now walks without pain. He's able to jump and has ramped up his physical activity during his offseason rehab.
The start of the 2015 season is still nearly six months away, and Smith is confident he'll be at full strength by the time training camp opens in late July.
"I have no doubt in my mind that I'll be back ready to go," Smith said. "Every day I grow a lot. Every day I feel good about the progress."
Smith is putting in the work now to get himself ready for the upcoming season. He's one of the few players consistently in the team facility on a daily basis. Rather than join most players around the league who use this time of the year to relax and travel, Smith's offseason has been spent inside the training room.
The California native hadn't even returned home to see his family on the West Coast until two weeks ago.
"Everybody is out resting, enjoying their vacation. My vacation is here," Smith said. "My whole mindset and focus this whole offseason is just to get healthy. I'm basically never stepping away from the game this year. I've been doing this since I've been hurt.
"Usually you're taking trips and vacations, but now I'm here grinding just trying to get healthy."
Smith has no qualms about spending the extra time on his recovery because he's so eager to get back on the field. He's done research on other players with similar injuries – he knew that Hall of Fame defender Michael Strahan came back from a serious Lisfranc sprain – and he's confident about his ability to return to form.
"I've had no setbacks," Smith said. "I just thought about how fast I could get back. I didn't think about any dropoff. I believe that I'll be fine. To me it's just a sprain, really. It's not like I tore my ACL or tore my Achilles."
Before getting hurt, Smith was having the best season of his career. He had garnered Pro Bowl talk and was establishing himself as one of the top young cornerbacks in the game. Smith finished the year with 28 tackles, six passes defensed and one interception. He allowed just 20 completions for 163 yards and no touchdowns on the 39 passes thrown his direction, according to Pro Football Focus.
Smith knows how important it is for him to build off that success in the upcoming season.
He's heading into the final year of his rookie deal, and the Ravens are counting on him to bounce back with a big season. The secondary was riddled with injuries last year – five cornerbacks landed on injured reserve and Lardarius Webb played through an injury for most of the year – and having Smith full strength will go a long way in improving that unit.
"Getting Jimmy back healthy is going to be very big for us," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. "That's a good start."
"Next year is going to be really good if we all stay healthy," Smith added.
Not only does the 6-foot-2 cornerback give the Ravens a big shutdown defender, but he's also one of the team's most veteran players. With the trade of nose tackle Haloti Ngata last week, Smith is now the team's third-longest tenured defender behind Webb and Terrell Suggs.
He's grown into a leadership role during his five years with the Ravens – he held weekly film sessions at his house for the defensive backs – and the Ravens need that kind of experience consistently in the lineup on the back end of the defense.
"It just shows you how fast this business changes, how quick it becomes on the new guys, the new leaders of the defense," Smith said. "I'm not the most vocal guy, but I know that my play speaks for itself. It makes other people play at a high level,too."
The next few months will entail more of the same for Smith. The training room is his workplace.
The recovery has been an arduous process already, but now he can sense that he's nearing the end and has a bright future ahead of him this year.
"Anybody who has done rehab knows that the hardest part is just coming in every single day, doing the rehab every day," Smith said. "But as the rehab increased, it just started feeling better. Now I'm positive that I'll be back soon here."