Revenge is a dish best served by a disgruntled future Hall of Fame receiver. Baltimore Ravens supreme pass-snatcher Steve Smith Sr., stole the show and then bum-rushed the postgame stage following the Ravens 38-10 dismantling of the Carolina Panthers, Smith’s former squad.
The boastful, bulldog warrior, spit nothing but venom at the team that discarded him like a washed up dollar bill at the end of a laundry cycle, and now must humbly and regretfully admit they made a mistake by breaking ties prematurely and unceremoniously with a guy that gave them 13 stellar, uninhibited years of his life.
During Week 1, Smith went on an expletive-filled, post-touchdown rant wherein he said anyone who thinks he can't play will find out in Week 4. After torching the Panthers for 139 yards and two TDs, owner Jerry Richardson’s worst nightmare had been realized – he had cut Nostradamus.
“Blood and guts means I’m gonna go hard and I’m gonna play my butt off,” a smug looking Smith said after the game. “They (The Panthers) knew that, and they understood that. They game planned for me. That film was a coaching session. I’m 35 years old and I ran around those boys like they were school yard kids.”
Smith warned these cats when they released him that he was going to make them eat dirt and rue the day they kicked him to the curb.
In March, Smith licked a shot at the Panthers regarding his next team in a radio interview with WFNZ-AM in Charlotte. "If that (next team I’m on) happens to run through Bank of America Stadium, put your goggles on because there's going to be blood and guts everywhere."
Smith, who upon release last March admitted in a moment of delirium and misguided humility, that he wasn’t a No. 1 receiver anymore, is back on his big-talking bs and backing it up with more fire. He’s turned in three 100-yard performances in four outings. His 429 yards is third best in the NFL behind Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson (459) and Atlanta Falcons wideout Julio Jones (447). Smith is more than halfway to his 2013 receiving totals and if anyone thought he was brought in here to be a second-tier option for Joe Flacco, they were mistaken. Smith has three times more receptions (25) than any other Ravens wideout.
Though Smith has used the idea that the Panthers didn’t think he was good enough, young enough or valuable enough to retain as motivation, according to ESPN’s Kevin Patra, the reason the Panthers ultimately cut the former face of the franchise was because they decided to go younger and cheaper at that position. Additionally, there was fear within the organization that Smith would continue to be a divisive force in the locker room, particularly with Cam.
According to Ian Rapoport, after Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said at the NFL Scouting Combine the team was evaluating Smith's roster spot, the receiver asked for his release and refused a pay cut. When the Panthers failed in an endeavor to trade the veteran their hands were forced and they cut him.
When the Panthers released Smith, it left Newton without any of his top four wide receivers from 2013. Brandon LaFell (Patriots), Ted Ginn Jr. (Arizona) and Domenik Hixon (Bears), all left as free agents.
Since being selected in the third round of the 2001 draft, Smith has 836 receptions for 12,197 yards and 67 touchdowns. He had 64 catches for 745 yards and four touchdowns last season. His numbers were down, but his leadership was as strong as ever.
Apparently too strong for Gettleman, who said in a statement:
"As I've stated many times, all decisions I make will be in the long-term best interest of the Carolina Panthers. Decisions, either popular or unpopular, have to be made for the greater good and it is imperative to take an unemotional global view."
It’s all about respect with Smith. He put his brain on bash for over a decade for this squad and they released him, implying that he was a locker room cancer and releasing him would in some way make the team better in the long run.
Newton, whose game has gotten progressively worse and continues to falter in Smith’s absence couldn’t disagree more. His Panther’s squad is decent and at 2-2 are sitting in first place in a “down” year for the NFC South, but he was once again offensively shackled and unimpressive in going 14-25 for 197 yards on Sunday. He spent most of his time rebounding from vicious blows delivered by Terrell Suggs and Co., who had the former Heisman stud looking more like Superman post-kryptonite injection.
“(Steve’s) like one of those big Tonka trucks," Newton said Sunday."He’s an unbelievably talented player, and I respect him so much. . . .I’m one of his biggest fans. I wish he was still here, but things happen.”
For Newton, everything that could go wrong offensively has. Smith on the other hand is experiencing a rebirth as a No.1 receiver for a squad that looks primed to return to serious Super Bowl contention and has already weathered a storm this season, having withstood the loss of Ray Rice and the media grinder NFL teams were mashed through .
The NFL should market more stories of cats like Smith, who are diminutive in size but giants in heart and football character. When he was cut Smith didn’t wig out on friends and family and add to the stream of negative NFL headlines.
When faced with the frustrations towards NFL policy and closed-minded franchise philosophies that discount players once they hit 35 years of age without taking into account the intangible qualities that make them assets beyond the numbers, Smith simply stepped his game up and forced the Panthers to feel the wrath of an irreplaceable champion’s heart on Sunday.
Baltimore’s been looking for the next Ray Lewis (an all-time great who doesn’t compromise on the field, is a leader and has the pain threshold of 100 Jonathan Martin’s) and Smith is built from that same relentlessly dedicated cloth. Welcome to B-More.