A sad week for the Baltimore Ravens got just a bit sadder during a press conference today, when wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. announced he’s likely retiring after the final game of the season.
The receiver remarked on his probable retirement at the Ravens’ practice facility in Owings Mills. Asked whether the upcoming Sunday matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals will be his last game, the 16-year veteran remarked with a smile, “I’m about 89 percent sure,” a play on his jersey number.
Smith played great on Sunday in the Ravens’ soul-crushing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, their conference rival and the team they needed to beat to secure a spot in the playoffs. Despite being up late in the fourth quarter, Ben Roethlisberger led a quick drive up the field that ended with a miraculous game-winning touchdown in which Steelers receiver Antonio Brown just barely held the ball over the plane.
Smith, for his part, made his own spectacular touchdown catch in the third quarter and caught a subsequent pass from Joe Flacco for a two-point conversion. By the end of the game, he had moved into 12th place on the all-time list for NFL career receptions.
Smith said today that his family supports his decision no matter what he decides to do, though his sons would rather he keep playing, he said. But at 37, as the NFL’s oldest receiver, Smith has a chance to finally give his body a rest and enjoy his family with 16 seasons now in the books.
Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh both had kind words to share about their emotional veteran leader. “He’s not very big, but he’s so explosive,” said Flacco, later adding, “When the lights come on and the big moments are upon us, he reacts to it in a positive way. It gets him going.”
“It’s been nothing but an honor and a privilege and a joy,” Harbaugh said at the conference about his three years spent coaching Smith.
Smith noted he’s been fortunate to have a career in football. The Carolina Panthers drafted him in 2001 and he spent his first 13 seasons with the franchise before joining the Ravens in 2014. During that time, he logged five Pro Bowl appearances and led the league in receiving yards and touchdowns in 2005.
“Football has given me more than I could probably give football back,” he said. “But for 2016, ’17 and beyond, this is probably my last game.”
Click here to watch the emotional press conference in full.
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