Ravens Jimmy Smith wants place among top NFL cornerbacks
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Jimmy Smith is healthy, very wealthy and ready to take on all NFL quarterbacks who dare throw to his side of the field.
After missing the final eight games of the 2014 season with a foot injury that required surgery, Smith signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens in April. The deal, which includes $21 million in guaranteed money, ranks high among the league's cornerbacks.
Smith is back on the field, eager to prove he's the best in the game - regardless of the numbers on his paycheck.
''I'd be lying if I sat here and say that didn't matter to me,'' Smith said after Friday's practice. ''Being one of the top-rated corners is more important to me than having the biggest contract. But I guess that just goes hand in hand. It's very important to me for the league to know who I am as a cornerback.''
Many already know. Smith knocked away a pass during Baltimore's goal-line stand against San Francisco late in the Super Bowl in 2013, and last season he was the Ravens' shutdown cornerback before the foot injury.
At 6-foot-2, 206 pounds, the former No. 1 draft pick is perfect for the position.
''First of all, he looks the part,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ''When you draw up a corner and build one by yourself, you make it look just like Jimmy Smith. He's just what you're looking for.''
Smith, who turned 27 on Sunday, is more than just physically sound. He's cerebral, too.
''He is a student of the game. He's matured a lot that way as a football player,'' Harbaugh said. ''He's really taking pains to become a technician and things like that, and he's played really well. The next step for him is to take it to the next level, play into that contract, and that's what he very much wants to do.''
While opposing quarterbacks might be wise to avoid looking his way, Smith very much wants to see football tossed in his direction.
''I invite throws, I invite all competition,'' he said. ''I don't have a lot of picks (five interceptions in 47 games), but what I do is eliminate the guy in front of me on my side of the field. That's a strength in itself.''
It's taken a while for Smith to develop into the player he is now. As a rookie in 2011, he started only three games and was burned frequently. He was marginally better the following season, then arrived in 2013, starting all 16 games, picked off two passes, forced two fumbles and had 58 tackles.
''After I had my rookie season and I got a rude awakening by the NFL quarterbacks, I don't think I'll ever think a quarterback is not going to throw at me,'' he said.
Maybe so, but quarterbacks be warned: Proceed at your own risk.
Ravens receiver Steve Smith, a 15-year veteran, often goes up against cornerback Smith during practice. It's rarely a pleasurable experience.
''He's long, lengthy, and uses his height to his advantage,'' Steve Smith said. ''He does a lot of great things. He's quietly underrated, and I think he's a really good corner that a lot of people don't know about. I think that's why we locked him up so soon, because he's a great value to this team.''
Notes: CB Lardarius Webb passed his conditioning test and was back on the field after missing the opening practice. ... WR Breshad Perriman, the team's top draft pick, missed Friday's session with a bruised knee but could return Saturday when the Ravens practice in pads for the first time. ... LB Elvis Dumervil missed practice with ''a little tendinitis issue,'' according to Harbaugh. ... DL Timmy Jernigan left in the middle of practice to get an IV after being dehydrated.
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