OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Steve Smith’s final NFL season wasn’t supposed to go like this.
The 36-year-old wide receiver is still playing at a high level in his 15th year, but the 1-5 Ravens are off to the worst start in franchise history after many publications coined them a preseason favorite to win Super Bowl 50. Making matters worse, Smith is still managing the pain of four micro fractures in his back suffered on Oct. 1, an injury that sidelined him from only one game.
Even though he hasn’t use the word “retirement” when asked about his future recently, Smith says his plans remained unchanged from when he announced in August that this would be his final season.
“I’m taking it one game at a time — not really focusing on that other stuff,” Smith said on Wednesday. “I’m on schedule for what I discussed earlier in the year, and I’m enjoying it with the wins and losses.”
Already with 36 catches for 510 yards and three touchdowns in only five games, Smith was even asked by the Arizona media on Wednesday whether he’s having second thoughts about retirement.
No one watching Smith play in 2015 can fully be convinced that he’s ready to hang up his cleats, especially with the Ravens languishing in last place and already trailing AFC North-leading Cincinnati by five games.
“I’m still on schedule to go and do things that my family and I have scheduled and said we’re going to do,” Smith said in his conference call with the Arizona media. “Until something changes, which I don’t foresee happening, I’m on schedule for what I announced earlier in the year.”
The Ravens’ struggles at the wide receiver position beyond Smith are no secret as 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman has yet to play this season after injuring his knee on the first day of training camp. Other young receivers such as Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown haven’t established themselves as starting-caliber options, forcing quarterback Joe Flacco to rely heavily on the elder statesman of the group.
Though intending to retire, Smith remains under contract through the 2016 season after signing a three-year, $10.5 million with Baltimore in 2014.
Has anyone within the Ravens brass tried to convince him to play one more season?
“Man, we’re 1-5. You think they would be talking about persuading [me]?” Smith said. “We’re trying to fix all the damn holes in this boat right now. That’s what we’re focusing on. Our focus is on Arizona.
“People keep saying that I avoid the question. It’s not about avoiding. This is a week-to-week season. It’s a week-to-week game. Every game presents its own issues, so I can’t keep following with, ‘This is how I feel.'”