(Updated: Thursday 9:30 a.m.)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Just a few days after linebacker Terrell Suggs returned to the practice field, Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith has joined his veteran teammate.
The 37-year-old passed his physical and was on the field for Thursday’s walk-through practice. Smith hadn’t played or practiced since tearing his right Achilles tendon on Nov. 1, 2015, a nightmarish development that prompted him to reconsider his retirement plans and return for a 16th NFL season.
Smith began the summer on the active physically unable to perform list as he continued to rehab a horrific injury that cost him the final eight games of the 2015 season. It remains unclear whether the five-time Pro Bowl receiver will attempt to play in the preseason, but he didn’t sound enthused about the prospects of doing so when asked about it in June.
“I’ve been very comfortable throughout my career not playing in the preseason, so I don’t have a problem with that,” Smith said. “Just four games that don’t count and [with] the liability of injury at the senior-citizen age that I am, I think probably staying out would be good.”
The 2001 third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers didn’t perform like a player on the verge of retirement last season, catching 46 passes for 670 yards and three touchdowns in only seven games. He is just 39 receptions shy of 1,000 for his career, a goal he mentioned when addressing the media during the team’s mandatory minicamp in June.
Smith is entering the final season of a three-year, $10.5 million contract that’s turned out to be a bargain for the Ravens. He spent the first 13 seasons of his career with the Panthers where he became one of the best receivers in the NFL.
“I may catch that in my uniform, get in my car and go home,” said Smith about the 1,000-catch benchmark earlier this summer. “Straight from there, drive all the way from M&T Bank [Stadium] straight to Charlotte in one shot.
“You want to challenge yourself. It’s the ultimate challenge. I think the last challenge that I really have is to be 37 years old, have an opportunity to play in the black and blue division [of the AFC North] — very tough, very physical — and I get an opportunity to experience it for hopefully more than 17 weeks.”
NOTES: The Ravens were without 12 players for Thursday’s walk-through practice, a group that included wide receivers Mike Wallace, Chris Mathews (soft tissue injury), and Breshad Perriman (knee), running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), tight ends Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, and Dennis Pitta (finger), offensive lineman John Urschel (contusion), defensive backs Kendrick Lewis and Kyle Arrington (head), linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot), and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (broken ankle).