Jimmy Smith received a text from Head Coach John Harbaugh this offseason, telling Smith to get in the best shape of his life. Harbaugh wanted the veteran cornerback to be ready for a different role this season. Smith took the message to heart. So did his personal trainer.
"Once you hit that over 30 (years old), everybody wants to talk about how old you are," said Smith, who turned 32 years old in July. "My personal trainer actually took that (Harbaugh's text) as a personal challenge, kicking my butt this offseason."
Smith has spent his 10-year career as an outside corner, but the Ravens have two Pro Bowl corners in Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey, and one of the NFL's best nickel corners in Tavon Young. This season, Smith will fill multiple roles, spelling Peters and Humphrey, chasing around tight ends, playing safety, and being part of innovative packages that Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale will deploy.
Smith is fully engaged, looking at the new role as an opportunity to use his skillset in a different way in the Ravens' quest to win the Super Bowl.
"It's pretty fun to be honest," Smith said. "I've never played so many different positions before. Not really that much of a learning curve. It is something new, but I'm enjoying it."
There was a time in Smith's career when he wanted to prove that he was an elite corner. Now having been with the Ravens for his entire 10-year career, Smith has proven his value to the franchise. He simply wants to win another Super Bowl and spend his entire career in Baltimore.
"I realize where I'm at, in the twilight years of my career," Smith said. "The role that I'm playing, I feel like it's an important role. I can help impact the game. That's the main thing. I feel like the role that I'm playing right now allows me to help the team."
Patrick Ricard Is Taking His Full-Time Switch to Offense in Stride
Patrick Ricard is a Pro Bowl fullback who started his career as a defensive tackle. For the past couple years, he's been one of the NFL's few genuine two-way players.
Ricard can still play both ways if needed, but the Ravens revamped their defensive line by acquiring Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe and drafting Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington. Playing defense doesn't appear to be in the plans for Ricard this season, but he's not sweating it.
"Whatever I'm asked to do, I'm going to do it," Ricard said. "If I'm not going to be in that (defensive) room as much, that's fine. That means my role is going to be expanded elsewhere, or there's other guys who can fill those spots. I love defense. Any way I can get in there, I'm going to try to. But at the end of the day, I'm just going to do what's asked."
A devastating blocker, Ricard lines up at fullback or tight end in Baltimore's multiple packages. He reported to camp a little lighter than last season and loves the way it feels.
"Last year I came in at 300 pounds and I was around 295-300 all season," Ricard said. "Right now I'm about 295-290. I feel leaner, a little bit quicker, still as strong as I've always been. I'm excited to see where it takes me for the season."
Justin Tucker*: No Crowd Noise Will Be 'Uncomfortable'*
There will be no fans at M&T Bank Stadium for the regular season opener against the Cleveland Browns, giving Justin Tucker his first taste of kicking in a real game without real crowd noise. Tucker got a taste of what to expect during the Ravens' recent stadium scrimmage when artificial crowd noise was pumped in. Tucker admits it felt different, but the most accurate kicker in NFL history is not concerned about the atmosphere being a distraction.
"Whether I like it, I suppose, is irrelevant," Tucker said. "It just is what it is. There's going to be that 70-decible hum throughout the course of the game.
"When we're kicking a PAT here in the first quarter, it's usually not crazy loud. When we're attempting a game-winner at Heinz Field, it's loud. For that not to be a thing potentially moving forward will certainly be unique. It may be uncomfortable in a sense. We're so used to going on the road when we line up a kick and the volume gets cranked up. (But) I don't think it's anything to overanalyze or get too worked up about."