Simmering Steve Smith Will Build To Boil Sunday

Steve Smith Sr. is simmering right now.

Come Sunday, expect him to be boiling.

Asked whether Sunday's game against his former Carolina Panthers, the team that cut him after 13 seasons, was asked if the anticipation was what he expected.

"Nah, not really," he said. "It's kind of like when you're poor and you've got Christmas. You realize you ain't really got much going on."

Smith said he just wants to get the game over with at this point.

The anticipation has been building since he was released on March 13. On that same day, he tongue-in-cheek said fans should "put your goggles on cause there's going to be blood and guts everywhere" if he plays the Panthers.

While admitting that he was originally rattled by the decision, Smith has largely downplayed his anger towards the Panthers since then. He's genuinely trying to mellow out this year, to take it all in and have fun instead of trying to always prove somebody wrong.

But when Smith suits up on Sundays, mellow isn't in Smith's dictionary. And then little snippets of his underlying resentment are revealed.

Even in Week 1, after catching an 80-yard touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals, Smith looked into a sideline camera and delivered a clear message to the Panthers.

"Think I can't play?" he indignantly said. "You're going to find out Week 4!"

So while Smith may be simmering right now, even he knows his alter ego is likely to come out on Sunday when he meets those Panthers for the first time in different colors.

Quarterback Joe Flacco said he expects Smith to be a "maniac" on Sunday.

"He's going to want the ball probably every single down," Flacco said with a laugh.

Does Flacco see a difference in Smith now with the Panthers in view?

"It's still early in the week," he said. "The closer we get to Sunday, who knows, man, who knows? You guys have seen him for a couple weeks now. Can he be much crazier than he is at certain times?"

When Smith was told that Flacco called him a maniac, Smith seemed to be a bit surprised. Off the field, Smith prides himself on being a loving, level-headed family man.

Then Flacco's statement was clarified. "Oh, on Sunday. Yeah, yeah, yeah," Smith said, as if it totally made sense that Flacco called him a maniac in that context.

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh issued Smith a challenge to "shock the world" and don't say a single word on Sunday. "But I don't think he's going to take that advice," Harbaugh added with a laugh.

With almost 100 percent certainty, Smith will talk trash and spin the ball after each reception. He does that pretty much every time he makes a big catch anyway. He's always on edge. Is there a way he could be even more jacked up against the Panthers?

That's what fans, and the Panthers, will find out on Sunday.

Smith is partly excited because Panthers defenders know him so well. It's a unique challenge for a longtime veteran that's just about seen it all. Smith specifically pointed to one Panther, linebacker Thomas Davis.

"I may say something. But honestly, if I run across the middle and Thomas Davis, who I love, he tries to crack back on me … it's going to be like practice where I'm like, 'You want to hit me? I'm going to hit you,'" Smith said.

"When I'm on your team, you love me. When I'm not on your team, you despise me."

Even on Wednesday, Smith said he still can't believe he's playing for a team other than the Carolina Panthers. He never envisioned that happening.

Smith said he still takes some time away from the team once during practice each week just to ponder. He remembers practicing with the Panthers, when a culinary school was just beyond the fences and the smell of what they were cooking wafted into his nostrils.

Smith has had to adjust to a whole new life in Baltimore. It's been especially challenging because he left his family, three sons (including one newborn, Steve Jr.) and one daughter behind in Carolina at their permanent residence.

Smith admitted that he shed a few tears when he was first cut, even though he saw the writing on the wall. His whole family did.

"We got back up, dusted ourselves off and said, 'What is the plan for the Smith family?' And we moved forward and it got me here," Smith said.

"Am I bitter to play against them? I'm not bitter because I get to play. But do I want to show certain individuals that I can still play? Honestly, I don't have to."

Smith has more than proven himself so far in Baltimore.

He leads the team in receptions (18), receiving yards (290) and targets (31). He burst onto the scene by tossing Bengals cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones to the ground to finish off an 80-yard touchdown. He made a critical 32-yard catch to essentially win last Sunday's game in Cleveland.

Smith has the most receiving yards of any Ravens player in his first three games in franchise history, surpassing Anquan Boldin. Boldin is the man Smith said he didn't come to replace, but he's done just that.

He's brought invaluables such as leadership and an added attitude and physicality to the offense. Even outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, one of the team's most physical players, said on Wednesday that he feeds off Smith's energy during games. When's the last time a Ravens defensive player said an offensive player fired him up?

"I'm not surprised by any means," Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said. "I know what Steve Smith brings to this game. I'm glad to see his success."

Newton and the Panthers just don't want to see Smith continue that success on Sunday. They seem to be trying to take the attention away from him as much as possible, as if to not poke the bear.

"I expect to see Steve Smith play the way Steve Smith plays, that's all I'm worried about," Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera said. "The truth is it's the Carolina Panthers versus the Baltimore Ravens, and that's going to be my approach."

It may be too late to try to keep Smith from going off Sunday.

"My enthusiasm will be out of this world," Smith said.

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