'Wolverine-Blooded' Steve Smith Undergoes Surgery
Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.'s road to recovery officially began Monday at 4 p.m., when he underwent surgery to repair his torn Achilles tendon in Charlotte, NC.
Prior to going into the operating room, the quick-witted Smith tweeted an update with a sense of humor. His son, Peyton, who celebrated his birthday on the same day as the scheduled surgery, was more serious, showing concern for his dad.
While there is no clarity as to whether this surgery will lead to another season for the 15-year veteran, there is no question in the Ravens locker room as to whether Smith could come back from such a serious injury and still play at 37 years old … if he wanted to.
One of Smith's closest friends on the team, running back Justin Forsett, revealed the secret to the wide receiver's success in maintaining his health despite years of brutal hits.
"If anybody can recover from an injury like that, it's Steve," Forsett told reporters in the locker room last night. "I'm sure he'll be healthy before the time that's set for him. He's got Wolverine blood in him."
It's all starting to make sense now.
Steve Smith Sr. is essentially one of the X-Men. And for those not familiar with the comic book superheroes, Wolverine is described as the one who "possesses animal-keen senses, enhanced physical capabilities, and a powerful regenerative ability known as a healing factor."
Of course! This explains everything.
How else could a 36-year-old receiver play through microfractures in his back? He was only on the injury report for two weeks with the ailment. Prior to this season, Smith hadn't missed more than two games in a season since 2004.
This also explains why Wolverine took Smith's season-ending injury so hard.
So does Forsett think his Wolverine-blooded teammate will return to football?
"Once he sets his mind to something, it's hard to change Steve Smith," Forsett said. "But I'll definitely be doing my part to convince him to come back."
Decision May Be Out Of Both Pitta And Ravens' Hands
Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta must make a decision by Wednesday at 4 p.m. to either play football this season or go on season-ending injured reserve.
But is the decision really up to Pitta? Or even the Ravens?
Head Coach John Harbaugh told reporters Monday evening that there's "no question" that Pitta wants to play, and Harbaugh added that the Ravens want him back. After all, according to Harbaugh, the defense has had a hard time covering Pitta in practice these last few weeks.
"That decision might ultimately be out of the hands of both Pitta and the Ravens," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
Whose decision is it?
"The doctors are going to take a hard look at that and help him decide if it's safe," Harbaugh said Monday.
After undergoing hip surgery twice in as many years, it's a decision that could affect Pitta's career and quality of life. The sixth-year tight end doesn't see how things are going to change by next season if the doctors decide he can't play this year.
The group is scheduled to sit down today.
"We'll have a powwow on it and figure out if that's what we're going to do on what the doctors and he say is the best thing," Harbaugh said.
Hensley: Good Luck Trying To Steal Ravens' Newly Disguised Signals
We won't be diving too deep into this subject because, as Harbaugh admitted Friday, the topic makes him uncomfortable.
As it should.
Trying to decode defensive signals is nothing new in the NFL, but Harbaugh and his staff developed an elaborate new system to disguise them, and he'd prefer not to give any tips to future opponents.
Here are the little tidbits Hensley observed about the new system when the Ravens faced off against the Chargers.
"Three assistant coaches – each wearing a green, yellow or red hat – relay the calls to the field," he wrote. "It's unknown whether all are sending in signals to their specific position group or if two are conveying 'dummy' calls. If that wasn't enough subterfuge, the Ravens' injured and practice squad players stand behind those assistants and hold towels over their heads to shield them from the opposing coaches' box behind them."
Harbaugh acknowledged this new system to Hensley last week, and he also explained why his team adapted it.
Just like the other 31 NFL teams, the Ravens make use of the one helmet radio that the rules allow for on defense, but there are instances when coaches need to get calls into the players more quickly. It takes more time to tell just one player, and have him communicate the play to all his teammates.
Harbaugh explained that if the opponent is in a no-huddle offense, the defense needs to operate more quickly and efficiently. When coaches send signals, all defensive players simply look over and they're all on the same page.
"And we would prefer that he doesn't know what defense we're in," he said.
Hensley pressed for more information, including what the colored hats mean or how many of the assistants are sending the correct signal, but Harbaugh joked and politely shut down the conversation so as to not give away any secrets.
"Can't give you any details on that," Harbaugh said. "I'm not allowed. I do not have clearance to give any details on the specifics of that.
"I'm getting uncomfortable."
Urban Expectations Should Be Tempered
The Ravens are excited about getting back defensive end Brent Urban, who returned to practice for the first time Monday after tearing his biceps in training camp. He has three weeks to practice before the team must decide whether to officially add him to the 53-man roster.
The team doesn't hand over the only coveted designation to return spot to just anybody. That's reserved for the player coaches think can be a difference-maker. That said, Urban has never played in a single regular-season game because he landed on injured reserve last year after tearing his ACL in training camp.
In other words, take his return in stride.
"Expectations should be tempered for a player who hasn't taken as much as a preseason snap in his NFL career," wrote WNST's Luke Jones.
"But the Ravens believe he can be a factor at the 5-technique defensive end spot — currently manned by veterans Chris Canty and Lawrence Guy — and as an inside rusher in passing situations."
Will This Be Flacco's First 4,000-Yard Season?
For years, people have asked quarterback Joe Flacco whether he can reach 4,000 passing yards in a single season.
The milestone has eluded him in each of his previous seven seasons; the closest he got was last season's 3,986 yards with Gary Kubiak calling the plays.
Well, Flacco is finally on pace to reach the mark, notching 2,176 passing yards through eight games. But now that we're seeing it actually starting to happen, CSNMidAtlantic.com's Clifton Brown doesn't necessarily see it as a good thing.
"That's an indication of how often the Ravens have trailed in games," Brown wrote. "The Ravens would like to have a more balanced attack, especially without Smith. But Flacco will carry a heavy load in the final eight games, meaning his first 4,000-yard season seems likely."
Zuttah 'Optimistic' About Injured Shoulder
For those watching Flacco chase down the errant shotgun snaps that backup center John Urschel was tossing against the Chargers, you'll want to hear how starter Jeremy Zuttah is feeling after he injured his shoulder in the Week 8 contest.
Zuttah told The Baltimore Sun's Jon Meoli that he did "a couple things" during Monday's walkthrough practice and he's feeling "optimistic" about his sprained shoulder.
"It's just something I might have to deal with for a little bit," Zuttah said. "I'll just work through it."
He's likely worked through injuries before. No player can put together a streak like Zuttah's without some nicks and bruises. Zuttah has started in 64 straight games, which ranks as the fifth-longest streak among NFL interior offensive linemen.