Late For Work 6/21: Wait, Will This Not Be Steve Smith's Final Season?

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Will 2016 Not Be Steve Smith Sr.'s Final Season?

When Steve Smith Sr. announced on Dec. 30, 2015 that he was coming back for another season, we all assumed that meant one *more *season.

He wouldn't play in 2017, right? Right!?

Hidden at the bottom of this well-done feature story by NFL Media's Judy Bautista is a little detail that has me scratching my head.

Smith's contract is up after the 2016 season, but as the receiver relearns the rudimentary work of using his right leg, he might have one more unexpected thing to prove. Maybe one more year after he was supposed to retire won't be enough, and this year, like last year, won't be the final one after all.* *

"Last time I made an announcement, I blew my Achilles," Smith said. "No more announcements."* *

So Smith didn't say he'll play in 2017, but Bautista definitely hinted at it as a possibility.

To be clear, it's still probably a longshot. As noted, Smith's contract is up after this season. When speaking with the media last week, he specifically referenced that.

"I'm under contract," Smith said. "I have an opportunity to finish out a contract in which I signed three years ago."

Also, Smith joked that once he makes his 1,000th career reception, he might "catch that in my uniform, get in my car and go home."

There's also the fact that most of Bautista's feature story, which you should totally read, details how Smith was ready to hang it up at the end of last year – until he blew out his Achilles. Now it's been a painful and difficult process to come back.

In the face of all that evidence, one thing we all should have learned by now is to not count out Smith for any reason.

Here are some other gems from Bautista's story:

*Smith was highly emotional in the locker room after he was hurt. Following the game, Harbaugh told Smith he thought he could come back to play again, and then he said the same publicly. But it was quarterback Joe Flacco who made the biggest impact on Smith in the minutes after his teammates learned of the severity of his injury.
*

*"Joe walked over to me and said, 'There is nothing you need to be ashamed of. The impact you've made on us in a short amount of time has taken people years to do. You make me better. Whatever you decide, you need to be proud of that.'" Smith recalled. "That broke me down." *

Smith also told Bautista that the low point of his career was in 2005, when he led the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, because it put a lot of pressure on him. He wasn't sure he could keep up.

*That fear had finally passed by last year, and Smith said he was able to relax a little. The high point, he said on that October day, was right then -- he was 36, 5-9, with two cracked bones in his back, and he was still playing a game that very few thought he could play at all. He said he would not even regret leaving football without a Super Bowl ring. *

Doctors Comment On Breshad Perriman's Knee

Even though the prognosis on Breshad Perriman's injured knee is good (he didn't require reconstructive surgery), there are still questions lingering.

Those questions remain because of how slow Perriman's knee healed last year after a PCL injury. Perriman eventually got a stem cell injection that year, just like he did earlier this month, to speed up the healing.

The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec casts a darker cloud on Perriman's recovery after speaking with doctors about the injury. Take note, these are not Perriman's doctors.

"According to two doctors who didn't treat Perriman but spoke in general about the treatment of knee injuries, it might still be a while before the wide receiver knows when he'll be back on the field," Zrebiec wrote.

Dr. Steve Yoon, a physiatrist at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles said Perriman should start feeling the effect of the stem cells this week, but said "a three-month period is a good time to undergo healing."

Three months?! That would put Perriman back in action around mid-September. The Ravens' open the regular season on Sept. 11 versus the Buffalo Bills.

"In a situation like that, you still need to recover and heal and allow the ACL be completely healed so there is no risk for retearing it once he returns to the field," said Dr. Yoon. "It's also possible there were some other minor issues with the knee, whether it's debris from years of playing football or maybe even a small, frayed meniscus. Those things you can clean up during an arthroscopic procedure."

Dr. Steve Bleckner, a former Ravens team physician, said it's a good sign that Perriman avoided surgery "but he'll still have lots of rehab in front of him."

"Either way, you're looking at 10-to-12 weeks of a healing process before you know whether or not [the injection] is going to work," said Dr. Bleckner.

Post-Minicamp 53-Man Roster Prediction

Predicting the 53-man roster is becoming the new mock draft. Everybody does them after every leg of the NFL offseason.

Now that Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp are over, ESPN's Jamison Hensley rolled out his latest 53-man roster projection.

I'll point out the more interesting position groups:

Running backs (4): Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon and Terrance West.
Hensley: Forsett, Allen and Dixon are locks. West gets the nod over Lorenzo Taliaferro because he's been running ahead of him this offseason. Trent Richardson is a long shot.

Wide receivers (6): Steve Smith Sr., Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Kamar Aiken, Chris Moore and Keenan Reynolds.
Hensley: Reynolds has been one of the standout players in offseason practices, which gives him the edge over oft-injured Michael Campanaro and Kaelin Clay for the receiver-returner role. Jeremy Butler makes the team if the Ravens keep seven receivers because of his upside at receiver and his impact on special teams.

Tight ends (4): Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Crockett Gillmore and Dennis Pitta.
Hensley: Darren Waller should make the team on his special-teams ability alone, but how many teams have ever carried five tight ends? Nick Boyle has to serve a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Linebackers (8): Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Zachary Orr, Za'Darius Smith, Albert McClellan and Matthew Judon.
Hensley: Undrafted rookie Victor Ochi still has a good shot to make this team but the Ravens might try to store him on the practice squad. Time is running out on Arthur Brown, a 2013 second-round draft pick, to develop.

Defensive backs (10): S Eric Weddle, S Lardarius Webb, CB Jimmy Smith, CB Shareece Wright, CB Tavon Young, CB Will Davis, S Kendrick Lewis, CB Jerraud Powers, S Anthony Levine and CB Terrence Brooks.
Hensley: The decision to go with Brooks over Matt Elam, a 2013 first-round pick, is based on his ability to play multiple positions in the secondary and his contribution on special teams. The upgrade at cornerback with Powers and Young makes Kyle Arrington expendable.

Quick Hits

  • NBC will unveil a new theme song for Sunday Night Football after 10 years of "Waiting All Day For Sunday Night." Carrie Underwood will still be the singer. [Associated Press]
  • I love this interview by CSNMidAtlantic's Clifton Brown, in which he grills rookie tackle Ronnie Stanley about his new adopted dog, Lulu.
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