The blood and guts arrived a few days later than many expected.
Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith mostly played nice as his new team beat his old one Sunday. But he unloaded on his old bosses Wednesday, taking shots at both General Manager Dave Gettleman (who we knew he didn’t like) and coach Ron Rivera (who we didn’t suspect created that kind of animosity).
Smith called in to WFNZ’s “Bustin’ Loose” with Frank Garcia and Mark Yarbro, and fired several volleys in the direction of the team he gave 13 years to, saying neither Gettleman nor Rivera were straight with him.
“Every time I keep reading stuff and reports come out, I just think I was stabbed in the back,” Smith said. “Just like coach Rivera said he wasn’t a sore loser, but yet he never even spoke to me through the whole ordeal. Not one time. He didn’t look at me man-to-man and said this was going down. He said he’s a players’ coach but he never came in and said, ‘Hey Smitty, this is going on. Wanted to give you a heads up.’ He hid in his office.
“Then you come at the end of the game and I play decent and then you come and shake my hand and say, ‘Congratulations. I hope the family’s well. Good luck.’ But we were supposed to be boys and respected me. You would have done it from the jump. You don’t do it at the end. And then you tell the media. Why? So you can look a certain way.”
That was a little surprising, less so was his criticism of Gettleman, who got the ball rolling at the Combine by saying he was “evaluating,” Smith’s play, and then came home to tell Smith he was gone.
Smith said Wednesday that Gettleman referred to him as a “shadow” of his former self.
“He doesn’t even have the cojones to tell us to our face [about being released],” Smith said. “We have to hear it from someone else. Then he calls and says it wasn’t personal. If the first thing that comes out is ‘Well it wasn’t personal,’ then guess what? It was personal.”
Smith also made it clear he wasn’t happy with being portrayed as a distraction, pointing to the team’s willingness to hang onto defensive end Greg Hardy with a $13.1 million franchise tag. He referenced the three teammates he punched, but said that was not comparable to the current situation.
“I’ve always been a distraction?” Smith said. “But I didn’t hit my wife. Yeah I hit some teammates six or seven years ago but I didn’t beat my wife. I didn’t get arrested for DUIs. I didn’t fall off no motorcycles. …
“All I did was charity work in Charlotte. I made mistakes. But building this big ol’ crutch about it like as if I pushed their hand?”
The reasons the Panthers cut Smith have been obvious. He didn’t play well with others, specifically quarterback Cam Newton.
But his frustration on the way out the door speaks to tensions with Gettleman that indicate there was more than one personality at play in the decision that sent him to Baltimore.