Late For Work 10/22: How Joe Flacco Guided Steve Smith Through Nervous Times

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How Flacco Guided Smith Through Nervous Times

He may be brash and outspoken, but even Steve Smith Sr. was a little nervous coming to a new team.

"Because when you come to a new team, I don't care if you're a veteran or you're a new guy, you're always searching and want to show anybody what you bring to the table," Smith told ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike" show yesterday.

After spending 13 years with the Carolina Panthers, Smith was in a completely new environment, system and culture. His ability to play had been called into question by his former employer.

So he admitted that he was trying too hard and felt uncomfortable.

Guess who came to Smith and helped him turn things around? It's the very man outsiders often accuse of not being a leader: Joe Flacco.

"I struggled early on because this West Coast offense was so different from what I knew from my 13 years in a different system. And he just told me, 'Just listen. Relax. I'm going to need you down the stretch, I'm going to need you to make a play, and I can't have you overthink it and unconfident.'

"That was probably midway through training camp, and I just looked at him and said, 'Wow.'  You know, for him to say that, that just helped me relax a little bit. I was pressing when I first got there, and so just that conversation was great. It helped me."

Well, the chat obviously worked, because Smith's nerves seemed to go away quickly.

He leads the Ravens in receiving yards (640), receptions (38), targets (59) and touchdowns (4).

ESPN host and Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter said to Smith that opposing defensive backs don't seem to be picking up on the fact that the 35-year-old is still physical and fast enough to burn them. The young bucks continually test him.

As always, Smith had an awesome reply.

"I think we have a TV show called 'Myth Busters,'" he said.

"Some of these young boys want to see. A lot of them say, 'I thought you were taller.' I just kind of say, 'Oh, OK.' So they come in the game and they want to figure out, 'Is it true?' And so some of them young boys find out real quickly that it's true. You gonna get all that you bargained for and a little bit more. I think they call that a buffet."

Check out the buffet Smith is serving in our Ryan Mink's Vine video below. He delivered a block at the 3-yard line, and the opposing Falcon landed at the 6.

Hensley: Ravens Can Send Message To AFC North

The Ravens hit the road the next two weeks for two divisional showdowns. And ESPN's Jamison Hensley marks them extremely high in terms of the impact they will have on the season.

"What lies ahead are the two most important games on the Ravens' schedule," he wrote. "Playing on the road at Cincinnati and Pittsburgh represents a prime opportunity to send a message to the AFC North."

Hensley echoed a similar sentiment we've heard*from multiple pundits, *since Baltimore dismantled three NFC South teams (Carolina, Tampa Bay and Atlanta): play that well in the AFC North.

"Now, it's time for the Ravens to take care of business in their own dysfunctional division," Hensley wrote. "The Ravens (5-2) won't clinch anything if they win at Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, something they haven't done in the same season since 2011. But the Ravens can grab the AFC North by its throat if they can avenge a season-opening loss to the Bengals and complete a season sweep of the Steelers." 

A.J. Green's Status 'Up In Air' vs. Ravens

The Cincinnati Bengals haven't been the same without their star receiver A.J. Green, and they badly want him back with the Ravens coming to town Sunday.

At this point, it's unclear whether the Ravens will have to game plan for the three-time Pro Bowler, who has an injured toe.

"It's still up in the air," Green told the NFL Network on Tuesday morning. "But it definitely feels better."

And what about playing against Baltimore?

"I hope so, man.  It's still up in the air, and we'll see," Green said.

Even if Green were to return, he made it clear that he won't be completely healthy.

"It's probably not gonna be 100 percent, but I hope it's just manageable," Green said.  "I can get through the season and play at a high level."

After a hot start to the season, the Bengals haven't won a game in three weeks, and Green had an interesting phrase to describe how people are feeling about his team.

"We was flying high going into that (Week 4) bye and now we like the scum of the crop right now," Green said.

Scum of the crop? I don't know what that means, but it doesn't sound good.

Week 8 Power Rankings

After two consecutive convincing wins, the Ravens have moved into the top 10 in all of the power rankings below.

ESPN: No. 9 (moved up three spots)
"When the Ravens win, they win big. Their points margin per game is up to plus-12.7 after beating the Falcons by 22, the highest margin in the NFL."

SportingNews.com, Vinnie Iyer: No. 9 (moved up two spots)
"Torrey Smith is getting more involved in their passing game, and he was the last guy they needed to get going, really. They've done a great job of helping Joe Flacco spread the ball around as he enjoys his best regular season."

Fox Sports, Dan Schneier: No. 6 (moved up four spots)
"The Ravens have channeled what has worked in the past and have become a dominant team in the trenches on both sides of the ball. These lines are highlighted by their run blocking on one side of the ball and a ferocious pass rush on the other. Joe Flacco is once again underrated."

ProFootballTalk.com, Mike Florio: No. 8 (moved up two spots)
"It'll be four more years until the next Flacco vs. Ryan debate.  Hopefully." 

CBSSports.com, Pete Prisco: No. 8 (moved up four spots)
"They have the top-ranked scoring defense in the NFL. That will be key this week at Cincinnati."

NFL.com, Elliot Harrison: No. 8 (moved up two spots)
"Another blowout victory for the Ravens, who might be the least-noticed 5-2 club in the NFL. Not here, though. Amazing that a seventh-year pro like Justin Forsett -- who carried the ball all of six times for Jacksonville last year -- is putting up the numbers he is for Baltimore, averaging 5.8 yards per tote. Tell me Forsett doesn't look a whole lot more effective than you know who did last season ..."

SI.com, Peter King: No. 10 (moved up one spot)
"Won five of six, and scored 29 (Sunday), 38 and 48 in three of those game. Which is good when you're giving up an average of 14 points in the same span. It's fairly incredible that all of this is happening to a team that was supposed to be ripped asunder by the Ray Rice scandal."

One Person Who Thinks Kubiak Stays

There has been chatter about other teams targeting Ravens Offense Coordinator Gary Kubiak as a potential head coach given his success in turning around the Ravens offense.

Hensley says Kubiak could be one-and-gone, but CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown says he like the chances of Kubiak staying.

"Kubiak's performance could lead to someone offering him another chance as a head coach," Brown wrote. "But I'd say the odds favor Kubiak staying. NFL head coaching jobs are difficult to get, and I think Kubiak is happy in Baltimore. I don't think he would take just any job. But the better the Ravens look, the better Kubiak will look to other teams."

Last Chance For Jacoby?

Harbaugh said the team is sticking with Jacoby Jones at returner after his second muffed punt of the season Sunday, and pundits believes it has to be Jones' final chance to keep the job.

"However, I think Jones is on thin ice as returner, and another turnover might be the last straw," wrote Brown. "Jones has already been [phased] out of a main role in the offense (four catches, 50 yards, too many drops). But he is still a dangerous returner. If Jones avoids turnovers, I still think he'll make some big plays on special teams.

"But he MUST hold onto the football."

Quick Hits

  • Running back Ray Rice has filed a grievance against the Ravens with the players union for wrongful termination of his contract, per Albert Breer. The grievance, which has been filed for about two weeks, argues that the Collective Bargaining Agreement permits one punishment per infraction.  He was initially suspended for two games in July. [NFL.com]
  • Will Pernell McPhee be the next to price himself out of Ravens' budget? [ESPN]
  • In case you missed it, another fantastic episode of "Ravens Wired." [BaltimoreRavens.com]
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