OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s unclear whether we’ve seen the last of Steve Smith in the NFL, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh says the injured receiver hasn’t yet revealed his 2016 plans to him in the aftermath of a season-ending Achilles injury sustained on Sunday.
The 36-year-old is scheduled to undergo surgery next week in Charlotte, N.C. with Dr. Robert Anderson handling the procedure to repair the torn Achilles tendon. Despite saying after the Ravens’ 29-26 win that he thought Smith would be back, Harbaugh reiterated Monday that the veteran wideout hasn’t indicated any decision about his football future.
“He didn’t express any decisions to me, one way or the other,” Harbaugh said. “Probably, it’s too emotional of a time right now to make any decision like that. But he will make those decisions in due time, I’m sure.
“I’ll respect him, and we’ll see where it goes.”
Smith announced his intentions to retire at the end of the season back in August, but speculation had persisted in recent weeks that the fiery competitor could reconsider with the Ravens off to the worst start in franchise history. The organization repeatedly shot down trade rumors regarding Smith, another indication that general manager Ozzie Newsome was optimistic about the chances of him returning for a 16th NFL season.
While Smith has plenty of time to make a decision about his future, the Ravens now face the prospects of moving forward without their leading receiver. Kamar Aiken will become Joe Flacco’s new primary receiver by default, but other unproven options will be asked to step up, including the recently-promoted Jeremy Butler.
The Ravens are also expected to work out free-agent receivers this week.
“I wouldn’t rule out that we would bring another receiver in from somewhere,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, we’re looking real hard right now to figure out what we’re going to do.”
With Smith becoming the second prominent veteran player to suffer a season-ending Achilles tear in 2015, many have asked what injured linebacker Terrell Suggs has been up to.
Harbaugh acknowledged not having much communication with the six-time Pro Bowl selection in the aftermath of the Week 1 injury.
“If you know Terrell, that’s just how he operates,” Harbaugh said. “That’s kind of between him and Ozzie right now as far as where the rehab is at and what he’s doing. I trust him, and I trust he’s doing everything he has to do to get himself back.”
Harbaugh added that he would anticipate Suggs rejoining the team in Owings Mills when his rehabilitation is to a point where he’s moving around with few restrictions. Many have opined that Suggs’ leadership would be helpful for a Ravens team in the midst of a difficult season.
As for the 33-year-old’s future, Harbaugh expects the 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year to return for his 14th season in 2016 despite the lack of recent communication.
“I assume he will. I never thought that he wouldn’t,” Harbaugh said. “I talked to him right after [the injury] happened, and he told me that this is just another challenge for him to overcome — something along those lines. So, I felt very good about it at that time.”
Defensive end Brent Urban (biceps) is expected to return to practice in the near future and is on track to play again in 2016. The second-year defensive lineman suffered a torn biceps in training camp and was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return at the start of the regular season.
“He’s soon to be up,” said Harbaugh, who is eager to finally see the 2014 fourth-round pick get on the field after two injury-marred seasons. “I anticipate that as soon as he’s able to practice, he will practice, because he’s healthy. He looks pretty good in there right now. I’m not saying 100 percent healthy, but he’s right there, and he’s really excited to get going.”
Harbaugh also said that left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder) expects to be ready to return after the bye week, but the head coach wasn’t sure of a timetable for Jeremy Zuttah after he left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury.
Elam suspension not surprising
Though not delving into the specifics that led to injured safety Matt Elam being suspended one game for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, Harbaugh said that the ban stemmed from an incident occurring more than a year ago and even praised the 2013 first-round pick for taking accountability.
“Matt self-reported that,” Harbaugh said. “That was a situation he got involved in down there in Florida or whatever. I don’t even know the details of it, but what I do know is that he brought that to the league’s attention through the Ravens and went to the league and let them know that, and this was the result of doing that.
“But I give him credit for stepping up and talking about the situation, whatever it was, and taking responsibility for it.”