When Steve Smith Sr. hit the free agency market this offseason, the Ravens and Patriots quickly picked up the phone.
Both teams reached out to express their interest in the veteran receiver, but Smith was already at the airport headed to Baltimore by the time he talked with Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. On that day-long trip to the Under Armour Performance Center, Smith decided to join the Ravens and signed a three-year contract before he left the building.
His tentatively scheduled visit to New England was cancelled.
"This was my first time being a free agent," Smith said Wednesday as the Ravens prepare for a divisional-round matchup with New England. "Everything was new to me being a free agent. I really just went in there not thinking about what was lined up, but just kind of taking it one trip at a time, going with my gut, and experiencing being a free agent for the first time."
Before getting to Baltimore, Smith said that he talked with Belichick about their interest in signing him.
"We had a conversation that indicated that [the Patriots] were very interested in me," Smith said on March 14. "And I was also open to going there as well, but I really felt like after sitting here that this is the place that I felt would best fit me, and they convinced me that I would fit in here very well."
Smith and the Ravens were a near perfect match from the start, and he had a resurgent season during his first year in Baltimore. He led the team with 79 catches for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season, and hehad a big game last week with five catches for 101 yards.
"He's another good player, another weapon for them," Belichick said. "He's made plays at all three levels – short, intermediate, deep. Former returner, he has good run skills. He's dangerous at all three levels."
The Patriots had plenty of praise for the 35-year-old receiver, including from veteran cornerback Darrelle Revis who could spend much of the day matched up against him.
"His age is what it is on paper, but he's still electrifying," Revis said. "He'll make big plays. He's very savvy. He's very smart, and he's a big-time impact player on their team."
When told about Revis' comments, Smith had kind words to throw back across the aisle.
"That's awesome. Thanks Revis," he said with smile.
"I think that's a great compliment. I'll take that. I respect the heck out of him. He's a guy that I don't anticipate any nonsense with. He doesn't anticipate any nonsense with me. It will be a great veteran game."
When asked if Revis is still one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in the game, Smith had another classic retort.
"I think his ID and social security number will say he's still Revis," he said. "I don't think you get a one-year deal for $10 million for being a slouch. Revis can play. He's a great corner."
Go inside the Ravens' practice session as they get ready to face the New England Patriots.