Steve Smith puts 100% into whatever he’s doing. That includes talking to the media his first day back on the practice field since sustaining an Achilles tear nine months ago.
It started off light, with the first question pertaining to him on his first day back on the field.
"It felt real good—what, first day of practice? It felt good. Light practice but starting to slowly ease into it."
The next question brought the true response every person wants to hear, how Smith Sr. really feels. It took a bit to get there though.
"You know. . . I’ve kinda said some things here and there. I kinda stuck with—I got 36 catches so. . . to get a 1,000 receptions would be cool and that’s my ultimate decision," Smith said.
At first it sounds like he is in fact chasing the numbers, but he opens up now, an starts to get emotional.
"Really, I mean I just kinda said that really because I guess it was an easy question and it was an easy answer to the question."
Here we go.
"But the real reason I really decided to come back is—you know what when I got hurt— prior to I got hurt me and my wife were discussing I think the Oakland game. The night before we were discussing some things about possibly coming back and playing this year. A number of people, some of my good friends, Jordan Gross— when I had spoken to him prior to me coming to training camp he told me he thought it was a horrible idea for me to announce it. And then after I got hurt we had lunch back in Charlotte, and he emphasized how it was a horrible idea and that’s why I got hurt. Really, is. . . three years ago I had an opportunity to go to a few different teams, and I remember sitting, at that time, in Ozzie Newsome’s office. And I’m sitting there and I’m like, "This is Ozzie Newsome". And being a huge. . . football fan that I am, I remember what Ozzie Newsome’s name meant. When you say Cleveland Brown, when you say tight end. He was a trendsetter. He made the game of football for tight ends relevant. They just weren’t blocking guys—blocking people. So when I sat there he had told me some things on why they thought I was a good fit here. Ultimately, I’m on the back nine for my career. I have an opportunity to play for a grea— another— emphasis another great organization. They say, if you can’t be yourself we don’t want you to be here. Obviously after the logistics of a contract I told my agent that I want to be here. So when I got hurt, my wife, myself, Ozzie and coach Harbaugh talked to me. They told me to take as much time as I want for me to decide if I come back. So I really came back, not to really set any records but more, because this organization gave me an opportunity. When I got hurt, I felt like I let those guys down in the locker room."
Smith’s voice cracked and his eyes welled up at this point. I don’t think anybody outside of his circle has ever seen this Steve Smith. The look on his face showed he truly felt guilt.
"So for me to come back and play. It’s to show that I am dependable and they can depend on me. And to show you jackasses that I’m 37 years old, I can still play. And I’m sick of ya’ll tellin, what can you—how can you depend on a 37 year old to play this game after a ruptured Achilles. We’ll see. Because I have people that believe in me and I have a team that trusts in me. I rehabbed for nine months while ya’ll sitting around twiddling your thumbs I was sitting there four or five days a week for nine months trying to rehab to get back on the field. And I intend to lay everything out. Not for myself. But for the people who believe and the people who invest in me sixteen years ago. The people that thought that I was only gonna be here for a minute. So this is just a chance for me to say thank you to them by finishing with an organization that allowed me to start as well."
The emotion didn’t last long, but you could feel the impact of Smith’s words. His loyalty to a team unbreakable, and even when he couldn’t control the nature of his absence believed he let his squad down.
The next question asked if he was planning on a retirement tour, or if he’ll go quietly.
"I’m not in this business to make friends," Steve said, the emotion flipping from heartfelt honesty to furrow-browed intensity. "So if you’re not in the same jersey as me, I plan to rip you to shreds. . . bottom line. There’s a number of guys in this league— everybody I go against I respect, but I’m not trying to make you feel like that I fear you. But I also respect you. This is competition this is football. And in competition guys are hitting you. So imma hit back. But we going to have fun and smile, I’m prolly gone smile more, prolly smile more than this—these last couple months than I’ve smiled in my whole career."
Later on Steve finishes, "I still be a hater in every city. I enjoy that. But I mean, I’m going to enjoy it the way I enjoy it."
Question arose on if Steve Smith finds there is more left than he previously imagined.
"Contractually this is my last year, I’m just gonna play ball," Smith Sr. said.
Quickly the obvious follow-up was asked if there is even more to be played.
"I’m just gonna play ball bro. That’s all imma do is play ball," Steve said. "Ya’ll worry about all the wrong things and all the good things happening ya’ll branch on. We gonna have a good time, we gonna have some fun, and we gonna make some plays. And oh yeah, I happened to be 37 years old while I’m doing it."