Naturally, the Patriots were interested in Steve Smith this offseason.
But by the time coach Bill Belichick called Smith, he was already sitting in the airport in Charlotte, on his way to visit the Ravens, who had the first crack at the veteran wide receiver and didn’t let him out of the building.
“Yeah, I talked to [Belichick] and it was a great opportunity as well,” Smith said, via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. “Anytime you have an opportunity to go to some teams, it’s always good. When your phone stops ringing, you need to start thinking about if I’m in the right profession.”
The Patriots weren’t the only team trying to get in on the 35-year-old receiver, as Washington, the Chargers and the Seahawks also called shortly after the Panthers released him.
Smith has proven to be a good investment, leading the Ravens with 79 receptions for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns.
“Steve’s had a real good career,” Belichick said. “I think he’s a real good player on all three levels: short, intermediate and deep. He’s got good run-after-catch skills, so he can take a short pass a long way.
“Good route runner and he’s made some big plays on the deep ball with his speed and ball skills and downfield judgment, and obviously with a quarterback who can throw it very well down there. Yeah, he’s a dangerous guy.”
While he tailed off a bit late in the season, Smith had five catches for 101 yards in Saturday’s win over the Steelers. That’s going to make him a tough matchup this weekend, though he’ll draw the attention of cornerback Darrelle Revis.
“It’s a matchup that you have to be in, it’s a matchup you expected to play,” Smith said. “There’s only so many teams left and I’m fortunate enough and we’re fortunate enough as the Ravens to be on this stage against a very good team. I came here to have fun and that’s what we’re doing, having fun.”
We’ll see this weekend if it’s still fun, and if the Patriots wished they’d have gotten on the phone sooner.