It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye: Is This Really The End Of Steve Smith?

By Ronnie Hampston / @Ron_Hamp

I feel like channeling my inner Boyz II Men, but I’ll save it for another day.

Steve Smith tore his Achilles yesterday against the San Diego Chargers. Prior to the injury, Smith was having a typical day at the office with five receptions and 82 yards. It’s the type of production we’ve come to expect from Smith, and this season, despite the fact he announced that this would be his last in the NFL, has been no difference. To be honest, I hope he steps on the field at least one more year, because it’s tough to see a star athlete — or any player for that matter — end his career due to injury.

That story has happened too many times in the world of sports. Though the Ravens are not a legit contender in the AFC, it would have been great to see Smith go out with one more 1,000-yard season to add to his potential Hall of Fame résumé. On a day when he passed Cris Carter for 10th all-time in receiving yards, Nov. 1, 2015, may be the last time we see No. 89.

Losing Smith not only sucks for the Ravens, but it also sucks for the rest of the NFL. Watching wily veterans such as Charles Woodson and Steve Smith go heads up with Father Time is entertaining in itself. Smith’s week-to-week bout with defensive backs and Father Time lurking made this season much more special. Injuries are a bad omen, and we know they could happen at any given time. In this case, it happened at the wrong time. That’s not to say there is a right time to get injured, but Smith doesn’t deserve to go out like this.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and reminisce on the career of Steve Smith. Smith carried the Carolina Panthers for damn near a decade, all while spending most of his career playing with Jake Delhomme as his quarterback. Not to get Delhomme mixed up with Jake from State Farm, but their quarterback skills are comparable.

While playing with Delhomme, Smith made it to four Pro Bowls (2001, 2005, 2006, 2008) and was nominated to the NFL All-Pro teams on three different occasions (2001, 2005, 2008). He was the focal point of the offense, and even through the double teams, he managed to put up insane numbers. Smith was the face of the Panthers, and when the team made a huge makeover, he was still there during the tough times.

Smith had the luxury of playing with a quarterback on the cusp of being great, Cam Newton. Even through the youth movement with the Panthers, Smith continued to play at a high level. He made a fifth Pro Bowl playing with Newton in 2011. Like all good things, however, this time with Cam came to an end, some would argue prematurely. The days of Smith playing in Carolina were over in 2013, and he didn’t get to play with Newton long enough to make enough noise.

The talented, diminutive receiver took his talents to Baltimore to provide a spark to a Ravens offense that was in dire need of a big-play wide receiver. A then-34-year-old Steve Smith was looked at as an old and potentially washed-up player, but the Ravens quickly learned that label didn’t apply to Smith.

Last season he finished with 79 receptions for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns. Again, Smith defied the odds of playing at a high level despite his age. In the words of the late, great Aaliyah Haughton, “Age ain’t nothing but a number,” and Smith continued to play that way until yesterday.

I don’t know if we will ever see Smith on the field again. Knowing the fiery competitor he is, it will be hard to see him walk away from the NFL. On the other hand, when someone has his mind set out to do something, it’s hard to stop him from changing his mind.

Smith knew this year was his final season, and he went out each and every game and gave it all he could. If this is the end, it was great to see him dominate a grown man’s sport while lacking some of the physical gifts that many professional football players have.

Standing at 5’9″ and 195 lbs., Smith is the size of your local Verizon Wireless customer service rep — not a Hall of Fame wide receiver. Perhaps it was his size that made hims so great. Smith’s size and heart were two things that always stood out, and it made him the player that many people adored.

It’s been a fun ride to watch Steve Smith play, and I am sad that it had to come to an end this way. Ice up, son  — I’m sure we’ll see you in Canton sooner rather than later.

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