How do you get Steve Smith Sr. to not be Steve Smith Sr.?
"I don't know if you want to," Ravens Vice President of Public Relations Chad Steele said with a laugh.
"Changing him? No way. No way."
As every NFL fan knows, Smith is full of hilarious and provoking one-liners. There are too many from over the years to even name, but the most popular is probably "Ice up, son."
Steele is one of the team's staff members, who try to allow Smith to be himself while not crossing the line. And that's a line Smith is constantly tiptoeing.
The veteran wide receiver seems to find Steele's task pretty amusing.
After Monday night's loss in Arizona, Smith, like a lot of players, were ticked about another loss. A crowd a reporters hovered around Smith's locker, looking for the sound bite to lead their stories and postgame wrap-up shows. Smith didn't want to talk because he was so emotional, but Steele urged him to do so.
Before he spoke with the media, Smith chatted quietly with Steele. Steele told him that reporters would likely ask about the officiating in that evening's game. He warned Smith that the NFL could fine him for disparaging remarks.
Smith bounced his idea for a creative response off Steele. He was going to rate the ref's performance according to Yelp stars.
"I kind of laughed," Steele said. "That's really funny, but my fear is that it's going to be so funny that it's going to be broadcast all over the place and the NFL will take umbrage with it. So I just said, 'Let's leave the officiating thing alone and dance around it.'"
Smith agreed to lay off the refs. Sure enough, the first question was about the officiating. It was just too easy, too funny.
"As soon as he turned around and smiled at me, I knew what was coming," Steele said.
Steele chomped at his gum. As soon as Smith started into the Yelp line, Steele shuttered in pain, as if he just bit into one of those sour Warheads candy. When Smith said he gives the refs a "two stars" rating, Steele's eyes bulged like he couldn't believe what just happened.
"There's really nothing you can say," Steele said. "With him, it's all in good fun. He doesn't take himself too seriously. His one-liners, they're so good. A lot of times I want to write them down to use them later."
Steele has dealt with a lot of characters over his 13 seasons with the Ravens, from Ed Reed to Terrell Suggs and everybody in between. You probably recognize him as the guy always standing over Ray Lewis' shoulder (or have mistaken him for a player).
So what does Steele think of working with Smith?
"He's honestly one of my favorites that I've ever worked with," he said, listing his reasons from being reliable, open to listening and, of course, hilarious.
Steele says Smith is misunderstood. After a production meeting last year, Phil Simms and Jim Nantz emerged glowing about Smith, saying he had completely changed their perception of him. In 15 minutes, Smith altered a 13-year narrative.
"Steve's everything that's good about the NFL," Steele said. "He's a fiery competitor, he works his butt off on the field, he wants to win, he gives his team everything he has and he gives the media everything they want. They love to fill those notebooks up."
Oh, by the way, Smith really does use Yelp.