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Steve Smith admits he came back to get 1,000 career catches

San Diego Chargers v Baltimore Ravens

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 01: Wide receiver Steve Smith #89 of the Baltimore Ravens is introduce before playing the San Diego Chargers during the first half at M&T Bank Stadium on November 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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Ravens receiver Steve Smith decided to come back for another season, despite saying a year ago that last season would be his last in the NFL. So why did he do it?

One thousand receptions,” Smith said, via Jamison Hensley of “That’s why, to be honest. Why not? You have to have something to strive for.”

Smith, who tore an Achilles tendon last season, has 961 career catches, leaving him (abacus) 39 away from becoming the next player in a line that includes Jerry Rice (1,549), Tony Gonzalez (1,325), Marvin Harrison (1,102), Cris Carter (1,101), Tim Brown (1,094), Terrell Owens (1,078), Reggie Wayne (1,070), Andre Johnson (1,053), Isaac Bruce (1,024), Jason Witten (1,020), Larry Fitzgerald (1,018), Anquan Boldin (1,009), and Hines Ward (1,000).

The only guy in front of Smith on the all-time list with fewer than 1,000 catches is Randy Moss, who retired with 982.

Would 1,000 catches be enough to get Smith a ticket to immortality in Canton? Maybe. Ward has 1,000, two Super Bowl rings, and a Super Bowl MVP award, but he’s likely going to have to wait a few years at least before getting a gold jacket. Getting to 1,000 without having at least one championship may not be good enough for Smith -- even though Smith had some dominant postseason performances during his time with Carolina.

Like Ward, Smith could finish with 1,000 on the nose.

“I may catch that [1,000th pass] in my uniform, get in my car and go home,” Smith said. “Straight from there, drive all the way from M&T Bank [Stadium] straight to Charlotte, one shot.”

Maybe everyone who finishes with at least 1,000 catches should eventually get in to the Hall of Fame. Despite the explosion of the passing game, the league currently doesn’t have a large nucleus of players in their prime seemingly destined to finagle four digits. Brandon Marshall has 882 catches through 10 seasons, and Antonio Brown has 526 after six years in the league.

Other active players with a realistic shot at 1,000 include Demaryius Thomas (456 in six seasons), Jimmy Graham (434 in six), A.J. Green (415 in five), Julio Jones (414 in five), and Dez Bryant (412 in six).

Smith almost certainly will get to 1,000 this year. Whether the Ravens get to the postseason and do damage there could ultimately be as big of a factor in whether Smith eventually gives what surely would be a memorable speech commemorating his enshrinement.