One more time for 89.
The Baltimore Ravens receiver said he’s “89 percent sure” what he’s going to do after the season. Smith said his sons still want him to play, but noted his daughter wants him home.
“Football is a conduit. It’s a platform, good and bad, but it gives you an opportunity,” a subdued Smith said. “Football’s given me probably more than I probably could give football back. For 2016-17 and beyond, it is probably my last game.”
Smith planned to retire after 2015, but changed his mind when an Achilles tendon injury wiped away his season after just seven games. To the joy of all who love football, Smith returned for 2016.
Watching the 37-year-old receiver plow through defenders, stiff-arm would-be tacklers and sprint past defensive backs more than a decade younger, it’s clear Smith can still play at a high level.
“People say, ‘come back and get some statistics.’ I got the best statistic ever: I played 16 years,” Smith said.
The pint-sized bulldozer has plenty of statistics already.
A five-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, Smith has compiled 14,697 career receiving yards, and 81 receiving touchdowns. This year he crossed the 1,000 catch barrier, sitting 12th all-time in career receptions with 1,028.
A fierce competitor, Smith was the long-time face of the Carolina Panthers after being drafted in the third round in 2001. He spent the past three seasons with the Ravens. At 5-foot-9, Smith’s toughness, tenacity and playmaking allowed him to dash the perception he was too small to be a go-to target.
“I’ve exceeded all expectations,” Smith said of his career.
The quote machine that brought us “Ice up, son,” “89, bottom line,” “put your goggles on cause there’s going to be blood and guts everywhere” and countless other sound bites was as entertaining off the field as he was on it.
“Today was pretty emotional out on the field because it was windy for a little bit, and some parts of the field were frozen, and the sun was shining, and it was confirmation today. God winked at me,” he said of hanging up his cleats.
Ravens players and coaches wish and hope Smith might change his mind one more time but understand he’s ready to walk away.
“It’s been nothing but an honor and a privilege and a joy (to coach Smith),” John Harbaugh said.
A future Hall of Famer, Smith will be remembered as a player that could do it all, on and off the field.