Back in 2008, when Joe Flacco was fresh out of the University of Delaware, he had a far-away admirer.
It was Steve Smith, then a member of the Carolina Panthers who was doing his own scouting on quarterbacks entering that year's draft.
Smith liked Flacco's strong arm, the way he could hit a receiver in the chest on a 20-yard comeback from the opposite hash. "That's always a good telltale sign of a good quarterback," Smith said Thursday.
So what's Smith's impression now that he shares the field with Flacco?
"He throws a lot of good, easy balls that you can snag with one hand," Smith said Thursday with a grin. "It makes it look good, so I like those."
Smith and Flacco like each other. While there's a lot more work to be done so they perform well together, all signs are pointing in the right direction.
Smith is adjusting to wearing a different team's colors for the first time in 13 years. Both Smith and Flacco are trying to learn new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak's offense. Then the two have to build their chemistry.
Flacco has meshed with other established veterans before during his career, including Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin. And he'll do it again with Smith.
"I like Steve, man," Flacco said. "He's a funny guy and he's a great football player. He's a fiery guy."
On the outside, Flacco and Smith have different personalities. Still, Smith thinks he and Flacco will get along just fine because they're both competitors on the field, but chill off it.
"To be honest, on the football field I'm a different [guy]," Smith said. "It's not like you're out there sharing cookie recipes – it's an aggressive game.
"Outside of the football field, I'm quiet, I'm minding my business, I'm low-key, I'm laid back. I enjoy family time and I enjoy hanging out. I enjoy pranks and having fun. But on the field, it's business. That's what I'm brought here for, is to play and to play well, and that's what I expect. I expect that out of myself, and I know I'm new here, but I expect that out of the people that are around me."
Smith has had dinner with some Ravens players to get to know them better, and thus been able to take the step of becoming a leader within the locker room. As he said, "nobody really cares what you have to say until they really know if you care." Smith said he hasn't yet had dinner with Flacco.
The two are both wrapped up in learning Kubiak's offense. Smith said he fell asleep in front of the TV late Wednesday night while studying his playbook.
Learning the plays is more important than building chemistry at this point with Flacco. Smith said that connection is a "work in progress" because he's a new guy in a new system.
"It's a lot to get in to, so I'm trying to run my routes as best I can without thinking too much, but still also get familiar with the positioning and the timing that Kubiak wants, and then get on the same page with Joe as well," Smith said. "So we're both learning the system and learning each other."
In his limited practice time so far, and without a complete understanding of everything he's doing, Smith has still made a good impression on the field. He and top cornerback Lardarius Webb have gone against each other during 11-on -11 drills.
"It's fun, but competitive," Webb said. "The guy is as strong as an ox, and that helps me out, to get prepared for the season. He runs great routes and he's making me better, and I'm making him better, too, because I'm challenging him, just like he's challenging me."
Head Coach John Harbaugh already said the Ravens' other receivers could learn tips from Smith's game.
"He's one of the best receivers ever at going back and getting a football," Harbaugh said. "He can chase and out-run a defender to the ball, so it's a little thing, but it's a pretty important trait for a wide receiver."
Smith spent a lot of time talking with Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones during practice, and is enjoying their company. The elder Smith seems to have particularly taken interest in the younger Smith.
"They can run deep routes and I'll run short routes. That's a great combination," Smith Sr., said. "They're great guys, too. I like them. We like joking around, and it's going to be exciting and fun [to] just be able to relax."