Ravens fans are getting their first glimpse of Steve Smith, who will be expected to contribute as a No. 2 receiver in Baltimore's offense this season.
At the same time, these same folks — unless they also watched every Panthers game week after week — probably didn't get a close look at Smith each Sunday. Well, Jack Finney at SB Nation's Cat Scratch Reader did and marveled at Smith's success.
We asked Finney five questions about what the Ravens are getting in Smith. Here's what he had to say:
Baltimore Beatdown: As Smith has gotten older, what have you seen out of him? Is his play still at a high enough level where he can be counted on to make the kind of plays a national audience has become used to seeing?
Jack Finney: There is no doubt Smith can still play at a high level. Maybe he has lost a little speed and jumping ability but he makes up for it in tenacity, strength and quickness. Plus he sets a great example for the younger guys the way he practices and focuses on all phases of the game. For example, Smith is a great down field blocker in both the running game and laying the key block to spring a fellow wide out.
BB: Here's a two-part question: In your opinion, how does Smith's skill set fit in Gary Kubiak's West Coast style offense, which involves a lot of running to set up play action. And sticking with his skill set, how do you think it will help out a quarterback like Joe Flacco, who struggled a good bit in 2013?
JF: I think Smith could flourish in a WC offense if he plays the slot and becomes that third down, chain mover type of receiver. Plus he can still make the big catch downfield occasionally which the Ravens should try to do every game.
BB: If you could list two or three favorite Smith moments in Carolina, what would they be?
JF: His most memorable play for me is easily the 2003 playoff Clown-X play where he scored in overtime to beat the Rams and send the Panthers to the NFC championship against the Eagles. As you may recall, the Panthers then beat the Eagles to reach their first and only Super Bowl.
After that it's tough because he has made so many great plays over the years. I think some of my favorite moments are the various humorous TD dances and sideline interviews Smith has given us over the years. From the wiping of the baby's butt TD dance to ‘NFL Rules & Regulations' to ‘ICE Up Son!' Smith has always been entertaining on and off the field.
BB: What is Smith like off the field, and do you think he'll be someone Ravens fans will wholeheartedly enjoy having on their team? Also, what was the collective reaction of Carolina fans once the organization let him go?
JF: I think he will be an immediate hit with Raven fans. Smith has always been very engaging and he wants the fans to like him. Plus he does tons of charity work in the offseason. To put it bluntly the Panther fan base was pissed. Some simply because of the manner in which it happened, some just that it happened or both. You might recall the first hint the Panthers gave about Smith possibly being waived was by Panthers GM Dave Gettlemen during his combine presser when he gave a noticeable lack of confidence vote when asked about Smith. It was news to Smith at that point and it went downhill from there. It's even worse now with Smith saying he had planned to play only one more season. I don't see why the Panther brass couldn't stick it out one more season. Cutting Smith saved very little cap space. I felt better though when Smith publicly declared his remaining desire to retire a Panther. I hope Jerry Richardson someday sees fit to add Smith to the Panthers Hall of Honor.
BB: What are your thoughts on the Sept. 28 game between the Ravens and Panthers? How strange will it be seeing Smith in a different uniform taking on his former team who he will forever be associated with?
JF: It's going to be real strange but since it's a road game maybe not as bad as if he had to come to BoA stadium. He at first promised ‘blood & guts on the field' in this game but has since mellowed his tone. I know I hope he plays well for you this season, except for one game. I think you got the steal of free agency myself so enjoy the ride!