The 34-year-old receiver signed a three-year, $11.5 million contract with Baltimore after spending his first 13 seasons in the league with the Panthers. The five-time Pro Bowler ranks 25th alltime with 836 catches.
DAN PATRICK:What did you do with all your Panthers gear?
STEVE SMITH: I put aside a lot of it to use when I'm older. I'm gonna be the old guy mowing his lawn in his old gear. For some guys it's high schools, for me it will be the pros.
DP:Did you get an offer from Carolina?
SS: No offer, so you just move on.
DP:What are your feelings about leaving?
SS: It's sad. But the feeling is temporary, not permanent.
DP:Better chance of winning in Baltimore or Carolina?
SS: I'm a Baltimore Raven now, so I have to say Baltimore.
DP:Do you believe that?
SS: You have to believe in every team you're on. If not, why are you on that team?
DP:After all these years, can you still play with a chip on your shoulder?
SS: You've got an opponent, who's not there to be your friend. You have defensive players trying to knock you out. My approach is, I'm going to hit you multiple times before you hit me.
DP:What do you do better at 34 than at 25?
DP:What do you mean?
SS: Through this whole process I've made sure that I haven't come across like I'm bothered or have a problem with the Panthers' organization.
DP:You don't want to come off like you're angry.
SS: I allowed the process to take its course; I didn't think ahead. I'm a thinker. I love to have a schedule. During the season, I'm already setting up family trips, taking polls on where we're going to go for spring break.
DP:A reporter said that the Steve Smith of five years ago might have been an issue in the locker room, but not the Steve Smith of today. Who was the Steve Smith who had problems in the locker room?
SS: Impatient, responding, not really thinking—a typical, egotistical, life-revolves-around-you professional at the peak of his career. Arrogance to its fullest.
DP:Was there a chance you could have gone to the Patriots?
SS: There was a chance. It was my first time being a free agent. I liked it. I have no regrets. I went with what ultimately felt right. I walked into the [Ravens'] building, and it felt good.
DP:You have 836 career receptions; how many do you need to reach the Hall of Fame?
SS: I could really care less about it. When I was younger, I was all about that. If I make it to the Hall of Fame and I get the jacket, I make my speech. They do the mold. I still have to go home. My life still goes on.
Grant Hill says that star freshmen Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins can be stars but that they need time: "To think they can come in as 19-, 20-year-olds and lift a team like Philadelphia into a playoff contender? We're setting them up for disaster with those expectations." ... Kobe Bryant says that critics who believe Carmelo Anthony can't win a title aren't being fair. "He won a championship at Syracuse," Bryant says. "He has that championship DNA in him. People get wrapped up in a categorization of a player and run with it." ... I asked Bruce Pearl, Auburn's new basketball coach, why he chose to return after an NCAA penalty kept him out of the game for three years. "It gives me an opportunity at redemption," Pearl told me, "to be accountable for the terrible decisions I've made. It gives me a second chance."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
DAVID T. FOSTER III/CHARLOTTE OBSERVER/MCT/SIPA USA (SMITH)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (HILL)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (BRYANT)
BUTCH DILL/AP (PEARL)