Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith suspended four games by NFL

August 21, 2018 | Luke Jones

Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith has been suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season without pay for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

The league announced the ban Tuesday after finding evidence of “threatening and emotionally abusive behavior” by Smith toward his former girlfriend. Micaela Sanchez, the mother of his first son, made accusations of illegal drug use and domestic violence in a child custody dispute reported by The Sun last November, but the league found no evidence of physical violence against her, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.

In a statement, the Ravens said they “fully supported” the league’s decision and called Smith’s behavior “inappropriate and wrong” before explaining the steps they’ve taken to decide that the 30-year-old will remain employed after serving his suspension:

“As an organization, we have carefully reviewed the matter to determine the appropriate course of action for our team to take as Jimmy’s employer.

“We consulted with relationship and domestic violence experts for their perspectives. We convened a group of Ravens women and men executives, not directly involved with our football operations, to review the matter. We also engaged in conversations with Jimmy about his past behavior and his intention to change.

“Additionally, it is our understanding that following a long-running and difficult custody dispute with his former girlfriend and mother of his son, Jimmy has resolved his custody and support issues.

“As a result of this entire process, we will allow Jimmy to return to our team after his suspension. Jimmy has acknowledged his behaviors were wrong and accepts full responsibility for them. He has completed a clinical evaluation and has agreed to undertake any follow-up care or treatment that may be recommended. Through our conversations with Jimmy, we believe he is taking the proper steps to improve and that he can change. Jimmy has assured us that he is fully dedicated to making this change. He also understands the consequences if he does not.”

The Ravens have expressed a strong stance against domestic violence since their infamous mishandling of former running back Ray Rice, who was cut only after a video of him striking his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City hotel was released months after the 2014 incident. Members of the Baltimore brass have spoken openly about not signing or drafting players with histories of domestic violence, but Smith has been with the organization since being selected in the first round of the 2011 draft.

Smith vehemently denied Sanchez’s accusations in last year’s report from The Sun, but he took on a different tone after Tuesday’s announcement.

“I would like to sincerely apologize to my former girlfriend, the NFL, the Ravens organization, my coaches, my teammates, my fiancée and all our fans,” Smith said in a statement released by the team. “I’m very disappointed that my past actions have led to this suspension. I promise that I have already learned much and will continue to learn more from this experience. I believe I am, and will continue to try to be, a better person and a better father because of this. I am committed to being the best I can be, both on and off the field.

“I take full responsibility for my past conduct. Moving forward, I will work with the NFL and the Ravens to ensure that what happened in the past will never happen again. I will take all necessary steps to be a positive role model for both my sons, for the NFL and for the entire Ravens community.”

This will be the second suspension served by Smith in a 10-month period as he was banned four games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy last December. Smith has said his failed drug test came from an unapproved pre-workout supplement.

From a football lens, Smith’s absence will concur with September road games against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, who feature Pro Bowl wide receivers A.J. Green and Antonio Brown, respectively. The eighth-year defensive back will be eligible to return for the Week 5 contest at Cleveland.

The Ravens are used to being without Smith for injury-related reasons as he has played a full 16-game schedule only twice in his career and has missed 26 regular-season games in seven seasons, but the results typically haven’t been pretty in his absence. Improving cornerback depth has been a major priority over the last two years as 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey and veteran Brandon Carr are now expected to start with Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, and 2018 fourth-round pick Anthony Averett serving as depth. It remains unclear whether general manager Ozzie Newsome will intensify the pursuit of free-agent cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who visited with the Ravens late last month as the organization was aware of Smith’s potential suspension.

Coming back from a torn Achilles tendon sustained last December, Smith is entering the penultimate year of his current contract and will make $9 million in base salary and carry an $18.35 million salary cap number. He is scheduled to make $9.5 million and carry a cap figure of $15.85 million in 2019, making it possible that the Ravens elect to cut him after the 2018 campaign. Such a move would save $9.5 million on next season’s salary cap.