Steve Smith Sr. sat in the locker room after the Ravens' emotional 29-26 win over the Chargers with a torn Achilles tendon. His season is over, and his career could be too.
The Ravens were elated to get their second victory of the season, yet in the locker room jubilation, they stopped to pay their respects, sadly, as if in a funeral procession.
Nearly every single person came to Smith to offer him a word or two. One by one, they marched by.
"He's hurting," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I love him, respect him, admire him. I told him that. That's the kind of man he is, and he'll be back."
The Ravens didn't know Smith's season was over when he was carried off the field in the third quarter with a towel over his head. It could have just been a bad ankle twist for all they knew.
Plus, it's hard to imagine any injury knocking the seemingly superhuman Smith out. After all, he missed just one game because of microfractures in his back.
So while M&T Bank Stadium grew silent, as if mourning, the Ravens plugged away and pulled off a win without their fiery leader.
But when the news of Smith's Achilles tear spread through the postgame locker room, it was like a punch in the gut just when the Ravens raised their arms to finally celebrate.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith found out the severity of the injury when he heard Harbaugh announce it to the media.
"It's very disheartening to be honest with you," he said. "He's a big-time leader on our team – just the way he competes and plays. His presence alone is huge for us. To see him go down, one of our top warriors, it's a big deal."
More and more Ravens expressed their grief after the win in a locker room of conflicting emotions.
"It's like losing a brother for me," tight end Crockett Gillmore said.
"It was definitely a blow," defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. "We know what Steve stood for. Steve is the toughest person I know. He's the toughest person I've ever seen in my life. The dude's tough as nails. I just pray everything works out for him."
Even San Diego cornerback Brandon Flowers expressed his sadness after the game. Not only did the Ravens huddle around their downed leader on the field. The Chargers defense took a knee as well.
"It was hard to see, because I respect Steve so much," Flowers said. "What he means to this league and the fire he plays with, you don't want to see a guy like that go down for the season at all. That's tough. ... We have so much respect for what he's put into the game."
The Ravens aren't convinced this is the end of Smith's career, however.
The 36-year-old receiver announced in training camp that this would be his final season. It came at the urging of his wife and with his sons calling for more time with their father.
But with Smith having yet another highly productive season, the whispers, and even outright calls, had begun for him to give it one more year, especially with the Ravens struggling as a team. It was fouling up a storybook ending.
Now an Achilles injury only makes what would be a final chapter even more distasteful. For that reason, Harbaugh thinks there could be a postscript to Smith's career. One more year?
"I have a feeling Steve Smith will be back," Harbaugh said as part of his opening statement.
Harbaugh was asked to explain how he was so confident about a return, and he clarified that he's more speaking to the kind of person Smith is and can't make any formal comeback announcement.
But Harbaugh shared a moment with the media from when Smith first came to the Ravens a year-and-a-half ago. Smith came to Harbaugh's home. Harbaugh told him then that he was going to write the final chapters of his career in a way that nobody expects.
Harbaugh went back to that moment when speaking to Smith in the postgame locker room.
"I said, 'Hey, we'll be back at work tomorrow. We'll see you tomorrow. There are more chapters to be written in this story,'" Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh isn't alone in feeling that Smith will give it another run.
"I think he might try it again," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "You've got two great Hall of Famers that went down this year with an Achilles at the end of their careers. Nobody wants to go out like that. With Terrell Suggs, I say he's coming back. Both of them are coming back to be a big part of this team. They earned it and they deserve it."
The Ravens won't sulk for too long. At 2-6, they still feel like they're alive this season.
It will be that much more difficult to make a run without their leading wide receiver, however. Smith's 46 receptions for 670 yards and three touchdowns led the team. No other receiver has even half as many catches or receiving yards so far this season.
"I'm not afraid to say when you have a guy like that, what he means to this team, this organization, myself, what he's done and just the competitor he is, it's probably a bit tougher," quarterback Joe Flacco said.
"We haven't caught any breaks all year," cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "This is another one, so we have got to rally."
The Ravens' reserve receivers did so on Sunday, helping the offense pull off a comeback victory. Now it's a matter of whether they can pick up the slack not for a little more than a quarter, but for half a season.
"He's always told us to keep pushing," wide receiver Kamar Aiken said. "That's what he's embedded in our heads. Even though he wasn't around us at the end, we feel like he was with us. A little bit of him is in every one of us."