OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A torn Achilles tendon last December was supposed to put the start of the 2018 season in jeopardy for Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith.
Instead, the veteran defensive back made a surprising appearance on the practice field for the second day of mandatory minicamp nearly three full months before the Sept. 9 opener and just over six months after the left Achilles that hampered him for much of the 2017 season ruptured in Week 13. For Smith to even be practicing on a limited basis like he did Wednesday prompted a teammate to question whether he possesses a mutant-like recovery power.
“I don’t know if Jimmy is like half-Wolverine, but the dude is healed up in half the time than normal, regular human beings with an Achilles [injury],” safety Eric Weddle said. “But he’s worked extremely hard. I mean I’ve been in here since after the Pro Bowl every week, and he’s been in here rehabbing. The medical staff has done a great job. It was nice to see him out here doing backpedaling and just being a part of the team.”
Smith spent much of the practice session on the sideline chatting with visiting former Ravens secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo, but his presence clearly bodes well for his availability for training camp and, more importantly, the start of the regular season. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound corner will have much to prove as he comes off a major injury and enters the penultimate year of a contract that carries salary cap figures of $15.675 million in 2018 and $16.175 million next year.
Injuries have repeatedly prevented the 2011 first-round pick from reaching Pro Bowl stature as 2017 marked the fifth time in his seven-year career that he’s missed at least four games in a season. Despite already being on injured reserve, Smith was also suspended without pay for the final four games of the season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, adding insult to injury.
That history of not being able to stay on the field coupled with the fact that Smith will soon turn 30 could prompt the Ravens to move on next season with 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey already looking the part of a future shutdown corner and other young cornerbacks on the roster showing promise. In the meantime, a healthy Smith would give new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale a good problem of determining how to distribute playing time among Smith, Humphrey, and veteran Brandon Carr, who has started all 160 games of his career and was a solid No. 2 corner last season.
“I think we have more depth in the secondary right now than we ever have,” Martindale said. “Where we’re going with this thing is really exciting to me.”
Defensive lineman Carl Davis (shoulder) also returned to practice on Wednesday. He underwent offseason shoulder surgery and had been a limited participant in organized team activities prior to being absent on Tuesday.
The Ravens are still without cornerbacks Maurice Canady (knee) and Jaylen Hill (knee) as well as safety Anthony Levine (foot) in the secondary. Guards Marshal Yanda (ankle) and Alex Lewis (back), linebacker Bam Bradley (knee), tight end Vince Mayle, and wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (leg) were not participating.
Wide receiver John Brown was also absent after appearing to tweak his knee during Tuesday’s workout. The issue did not appear serious at the time as he remained on the field for the rest of practice and even did some extra work with other receivers after its conclusion.
In addition to Smith, the Ravens welcomed back longtime reserve linebacker Albert McClellan, who practiced for the first time since tearing the ACL in his right knee last summer. The 32-year-old has been a core special-teams player for Baltimore since 2011.
“Albert is a warrior. Our young players benefit so much from having Albert on the field,” special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. “He’s a mentor, but he’s a great role model for how to practice and how to play physical, smart football.
“The other part of it is he’s really a great coach. If he wants to coach someday, he’s going to be a great coach because he understands football and is able to communicate to the young guys.”