Ravens wideout Steve Smith says this will be his final season
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, one of 12 players in NFL history with 900 catches, says he will retire after this season - his 15th in the league.
The five-time Pro Bowler spent his first 13 season with Carolina. He intends to leave after the second season of a three-year contract with Baltimore. He informed his teammates Monday before practice at training camp.
"I'll look back and enjoy things," Smith said. "I feel like it's time. My body feels great, but not everybody gets this opportunity."
The 36-year-old receiver made his decision in April. Last season he caught 79 passes for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns to help the Ravens reach the second round of the playoffs.
Smith has 13,000 receiving yards and 70 touchdown receptions for his career. He was a third-round draft pick in 2001 and has played 14 or more games in all but one season.
"I don't want to hold on," Smith said. "Jerry Rice is the best receiver to ever play, but I don't believe that chasing whatever it is to chase for four more years would be conducive to my family or me. I would be having to give up something."
Smith is the Panthers' career leader in catches and was released by Carolina after the 2013 season. His wife, Angie, and four children live in Charlotte, N.C., a factor that contributed to his decision despite his estimation that he could play two or three more years.
"It's very difficult," Smith said. "I enjoy my family, so it's kind of tough to see them in spurts."
The Ravens signed Smith last year to lead a young group of receivers. He quickly reinforced his reputation for being a fierce competitor.
"I don't think you can get by in this league without a guy with that personality," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's just a guy who is a pit bull. He's like Daddy pit bull and he's got all these little young pit bulls that he's trying to raise up the right way. He's going to force you to pr actice every single day or he's going to humiliate you."
After the Ravens lost to New England in the 2014 divisional round in January, general manager Ozzie Newsome advised the veteran receiver to think about his future. Members of the organization were not surprised by Smith's decision to retire at the end of the season.
"Ozzie asked me to think about it," Smith said. "He's great at what he does and he can look at guys' eyes and kind of see things. He said to take my time. I knew that I wanted to give it one more try. I worked out and said, 'You know what? This is it.'"
After signing with the Ravens last year, Smith said his biggest goal was to win a championship after falling short with Carolina against New England in the Super Bowl. He is now prepared to make one final run at the ring.
"I'm not really a big gambler, but the analogy is all my chips are on the table," Smith said. "We're going to see what the dealer gives me."