Steve Smith Sr. sure didn't look like a 36 year old with broken bones in his back Sunday afternoon.
The veteran receiver played against San Francisco despite suffering microfractures in his back two weeks ago, and again proved to be Baltimore's biggest playmaker. He led the Ravens with seven catches for 137 yards and a second-half touchdown.
"Ultimately, you go out there and play," Smith said. "Other guys have injuries that are fighting through it. Win, lose, or draw, you have to go out there. You can't allow that to be an excuse on why you didn't perform well."
Smith's day would have been even more impressive if he had hauled in two other touchdown passes thrown his way, but both bounced off his hands. The plays were both on third down, forcing the Ravens to settle for field goals.
Smith said he simply dropped the first touchdown, which happened early in the second quarter with the Ravens trailing 6-0. He got open and quarterback Joe Flacco found him in the end zone, but Smith couldn't hang onto the football.
"I wish I had a very valid reason why I dropped it, but I just dropped it," Smith said.
The other potential touchdown came later in the second quarter. Smith dove to try to catch the pass, but couldn't hang onto it as he went to the turf.
"The second one looked easier than what it was," Smith said. "It may have hit my hands, but my face was into the ground so I'm not really sure where the ball landed. But that's football though."
Those catches clearly would have made a difference for the Ravens as they tried to erase an early deficit, but Smith did his part to make up for them. Flacco threw his way 10 times throughout the game, including a 34-yard touchdown strike down the sidelines in the third quarter.
"When we win as a team, we celebrate. And when we lose as a team, we have to fix those things," Smith said. "That's what we have to do. Nobody cares why, or what happened. All they want us to do – our fans – is fix it, and win games."
Smith showed no clear signs of being limited by the injury. He even jumped right up after taking a big hit from a defender to the back. He said he thought about the back injury on a few occasions, but "just wanted to play and be out there with my guys."
The Ravens will need him out there in the coming weeks as they try to right the ship from the worst start in franchise history. Even with a bad back, Smith has the ability to be a difference maker on offense, and the Ravens want to get the most from him in the final games of his 15-year career.
"If you're 1-5, that's not an easy fix. It's going to require some people, including myself, to examine ourselves and look in the mirror," he said. "It's tough. And it's agonizing. We feel like we just run our heads into a brick wall. But nobody is going to come save us.
"We can't make any excuses. We all are out there and once you accept that jersey after they put in the inactives list, you have the responsibility to do your job. All of us do."