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Ravens WR Smith beats defensive backs, adversity

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Ravens WR Smith beats defensive backs, adversity

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) On game day, Torrey Smith is a whirlwind of dreadlocks, speed and big-play catches.

None of this provides a hint of the hurdles he had to overcome to become the deep threat the Baltimore Ravens needed to make it to the Super Bowl.

After helping his single mother raise six other children, a chore that included working after school as a teenager, Smith accepted a scholarship to the University of Maryland. He played three seasons, scoring 22 touchdowns - including three on kickoff returns - before throwing his name into the mix for the 2011 NFL draft.

Smith was selected in the second round by Baltimore, and as rookie he quickly displayed the ability to get downfield although his inexperience resulted in several costly dropped passes.

Early this season, Smith ran sharper patterns and rarely let a ball slip through his fingers. But tragedy struck less than 24 hours before the Ravens faced New England on Sept. 23: Smith's younger brother, Tevin Jones, was killed in a motorcycle accident in Virginia.

Smith left the team to join his family, then returned to catch six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns to help Baltimore earn a 31-30 victory.

``Incredible,'' teammate Jacoby Jones said last week. ``I'm not sure many people could perform under those circumstances, let alone play so well. I really do admire him for that.''

Smith finished the regular season with eight TD catches and ranked fourth in the NFL with 17.4 yards per reception. In the second round of the playoffs, he twice burned standout cornerback Champ Bailey for long scores in the Ravens' 38-35 playoff win over top-seeded Denver. Smith then contributed four catches for 69 yards as Baltimore defeated New England 28-13 to advance to a Super Bowl showdown with San Francisco this Sunday.

Smith revealed after the AFC title game that several Patriots fans took to insulting him on Twitter.

``Played a lot of games since my brothers death and I never received as many rude tweets after a win than Sunday...yet NE fans cry about class,'' he tweeted.

Asked in New England how the Ravens emerged as conference champions despite being decided underdogs, Smith replied, ``It's who we are. That's what our city is, a tough city. You get knocked down, you've got to get back up. That's how life is. You just can't lay down and roll over. You've got to continue to fight.''

And so it is with Smith.

``We talk about the cauldron of competition and the fire that refines us. To me, Torrey is the perfect example of how the right kind of person is made of the right kind of stuff,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ``He's one of those rare players where there is no agenda. He just wants to know what's expected of him, so he can do the best he possibly can. He's not trying to fool you, he's not trying to impress you. He's just trying to be himself.''

For Smith to be at his best this season, it was important that he moved on after his brother's death.

``That's life. That's so long ago,'' Smith said with shrug Saturday as he packed his bags for a trip to New Orleans. ``That happens to everyone. Someone has someone pass, and you've just got to move on. I'm just focused on playing football.''

When Smith opted to leave Maryland before his senior year, his coach at the time, Ralph Friedgen, wasn't sure if it was the right decision. Friedgen no longer has any doubt that the 6-foot, 200-pound speedster has what it takes to be great.

``I see his hands improving and I see someone very confident in what he does,'' said Friedgen, who was fired after the 2010 season. ``When you can beat a guy like Champ Bailey twice, that can only help your confidence. Around the league, everyone knows that to beat the Ravens, you have to stop Torrey.''

Before Smith arrived, Harbaugh was desperate for a receiver that could get behind opposing safeties. Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, T.J. Houshmandzahdeh, and Donte Stallworth did so on occasion, but Smith has seemingly made it a habit.

Although his 49 catches were one fewer than last season, Smith increased his yardage from 841 to 855 and had 16 catches of 20 yards or more.

``It's definitely a process,'' Smith said. ``I don't think I am surprised, because with hard work you expect to do well, and you expect to continue to get better. I never get complacent. I have a long way to go, and I'm trying to work each and every day to get there. Later, down the line, there will be some trouble.''

Friedgen has no doubt.

``Once we got him at Maryland, he hadn't played much at wide receiver,'' the former coach said. ``But I thought he had the physical tools to be very good football player, and I was right. There's a learning curve in the NFL, because defensive backs can stay with you like a shadow. But Torrey has overcome that, and I don't think he's finished growing yet.''

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Ravens vs. Texans: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens vs. Texans: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Ravens are hosting Monday Night Football for the first time since 2012, when they welcome the Houston Texans to town.

The Ravens are coming off a much needed win against the Green Bay Packers, where the defense forced five turnovers and lifted the Ravens into the sixth and final wild card spot in the AFC. 

Not only did they regain playoff positioning, the defense got their third shutout of the season.

It even earned linebacker Matthew Judon AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

The 4-6 Texans have been struggling since losing rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson. However, they did just end a three game losing streak with a 31-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals. 

The Ravens defense will be busy keeping an eye on wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has 879 yards on the season for 9 touchdowns. The Texans are also ranked sixth in the league in rushing yards. Will they be able to keep that momentum going?

The Ravens and Texans have met nine times with the Ravens leading the series, 7-2. 

Week 12 Ravens vs. Texans Game Info:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Houston Texans

What: Week 12 NFL regular season 

When: 8:30 p.m. ET, Monday, Nov. 27, 2017

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD

TV Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: fuboTV

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 

Point Spread: Baltimore, -7

Over/Under: 38

Weather: 41 degrees, clear skies

BALTIMORE RAVENS 2017 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1 (Sun, Sept. 10): 20-0  at Cincinnati Bengals (W)

Week 2 (Sun, Sept. 17): 24-10 vs. Cleveland Browns (W)

Week 3 (Sun, Sept. 24): 44-7 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (in London) (L)

Week 4 (Sun, Oct. 1): vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 5 (Sun, Oct. 8): at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m. (W)

Week 6 (Sun, Oct. 15): vs Chicago Bears, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 7 (Sun, Oct. 22): at Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 8 (Thur, Oct. 26): vs. Miami Dolphins, 8:25 p.m. (W)

Week 9 (Sun, Nov. 5): at Tennessee Titans, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 10 (Sun, Nov. 12): BYE week

Week 11 (Sun, Nov. 19): at Green Bay Packers, 1:00 p.m. (W)

Week 12 (Mon, Nov. 27): vs. Houston Texans, 8:30 p.m.

Week 13 (Sun, Dec. 3): vs. Detroit Lions, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: (Sun, Dec. 10): at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:30 p.m.

Week 15: (Sun, Dec. 17): at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: (Sat, Dec. 23): vs Indianapolis Colts, 4:30 p.m.

Week 17: (Sun, Dec. 31): vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m

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Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis named semifinalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 class

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USA TODAY Sports

Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis named semifinalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 class

Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has been named a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 class. 

Lewis, who is in his first year of eligibility, made the first set of cuts from 108 candidates to 27. 

First-year eligible players included on the semifinals list with Lewis are defensive back Ronde Barber, guard Steve Hutchinson, linebacker Brian Urlacher, wide receiver Randy Moss and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

RELATED: THREE THINGS WE'VE LEARNED ABOUT THE RAVENS THIS SEASON

12 offensive players, 13 defensive players and two coaches made the cut. However, there are no quarterbacks on the list.

All ties for the 25th spot also advance. 

In January, members of the Hall of Fame committee will then narrow the modern-era list down to 15. Nominees must receive 80 percent "yes" votes to make the cut.

The selection committee will then meet for a final time on February 3, the day before Super Bowl LII, to select the 2018 class. 

RELATED: LEWIS CLAIMS RAVENS DIDN'T SIGN KAEPERNICK AFTER GIRLFRIEND'S TWEET

Lewis and Moss are considered shoo-ins.

Lewis played his entire 17-year career with the team after the Ravens drafted him 26th in the 1996 draft. During his 17 years, he won two Super Bowls, won Super Bowl XXXV MVP, was named to 13 Pro Bowls, a seven-time First-Team All-Pro, was a two-time Defensive Player of the year winner, won eight Defensive Player of the Week awards, played in 228 career games, made 1,336 tackles, had 41.5 sacks and 31 interceptions.

Players must be retired from the league for five years to be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.