Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith says he will retire after the 2015 season – making the bombshell announcement following Monday’s practice.
Entering his 15th NFL season at age 36, Smith said he had been thinking about his future for months, and that he almost retired this spring. But he decided to return for one more season, and to leave the game on his terms.
“Me and my family, basically after this season, this is my last season,” Smith said. “I’m going to go home, and be Dad. I feel like it’s time.”
Smith told his teammates and coaches of his decision before making the announcement.
“Every time you do an interview at my age, people always ask, ‘How much longer do you want to play?”’, Smith said. “I feel like this is the best place to end.
“I don’t want to hold on. Jerry Rice is the best wide receiver to ever play. But I don’t believe chasing whatever there is to chase, for four more years, would be conducive to my family and conducive to me.”
Smith’s career has been brilliant – 915 receptions, 13,262 yards, and 73 touchdowns, with eight 1,000-yard seasons. He spent his first 13 NFL seasons with the Panthers, before joining the Ravens as a free agent in 2014. Ravens coach John Harbaugh has only been with Smith for one year, but said their relationship was already special.
“Probably one of the most fun players I’ve ever coached,” Harbaugh said. “Definitely a tone setter. He’s a pit bull. Forces everyone in practice to bring their A game or they’ll be humiliated.”
Smith is still the Ravens’ best receiver, coming off a 2014 season in which he caught 79 passes for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns.
Asked how his teammates reacted to his decision, Smith said, “A few guys panicked that I was shutting it down today. They were really supportive.”
Smith admitted it would be difficult to walk away, but that he was already preparing for the transition.
“Anytime you do something 15 years, plus four years of college, that’s 19, 20 years of football,” Smith said. “They will be a mourning process. They’ll be some parts of it where, it’s going to be tough. I’m not really nervous about retiring. I’m more nervous about what it looks like on the other side.”
Asked how much longer he thought he could play, Smith said, “Probably another two or three years.” But Smith doesn’t want to. His decision sounded final. So whenever the Ravens’ season ends, expect Smith’s career to end, too.