Not days. Not weeks. Hours after his younger brother’s death in a motorcycle accident, wide receiver Torrey Smith decided the best thing he could do wasn’t stay home or stand on the sidelines. He wanted to play.
And play he did - a massive role in the Ravens’ 31-30 come-from-behind victory over the Patriots on “Sunday Night Football.”
Smith tallied six receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns, the second of which came with 4:01 remaining and got Baltimore spinning back in the right direction after it fell behind 30-21 in the fourth quarter.
Justin Tucker’s narrowly converted 27-yard field goal as time expired might’ve won it, but Smith’s contributions were easily the focus after the game.
“Torrey is a great, great young man. We dedicate that victory to (Smith’s brother) Tevin and the whole family,” coach John Harbaugh said.
With tears welling up in his eyes, Smith described the emotions that came with experiencing such a difficult day and going through with playing following travel to his Virginia home and back.
“It was tough. I didn’t know until about 4 o’clock if I was going to play or not,” he said. “I only had like an hour of sleep because it happened at like 10:30 the day before. I went home right away, didn’t sleep in the car ride, and went to sleep at about 6:30 or 7 in the morning. It was tough emotionally. I didn’t know how I would hold up, but thanks to my teammates and coaches and all the support from really everyone around the league, just everyone, everywhere - you know, I was getting texts and people telling me on my Twitter. I just thank everyone on behalf of my family.
“I was telling my teammates a minute ago that this is new territory for me personally. I never really had to deal with a death in the family, let alone my brother. In our family, everyone’s so tight just like a lot of other families. It’s part of life and due to my teammates and my family and friends, I’ll be able to get over it.”
Although Smith’s decision didn’t come until late in the day, Harbaugh and the coaching staff left it up to the second-year receiver as to whether he wanted to play.
“I guess if you’re around athletics, you feel like it’s an escape, it’s an opportunity to get out there and do what he does,” Harbaugh said. “He has been doing it his whole life - he knows what to do. But when Torrey said he wanted to play, then the decision was finished. He was going to get the opportunity to play, he deserved that. If it didn’t work out, then we’d have known and he’d have known. Obviously, he’s a pretty special guy.”
Smith had a lot to consider when thinking about whether it was the right decision to play.
“Being a receiver, you’ve got to have your mind clear,” he said. “You can’t have anything weighing on you, tense up, that’s going to cause you to drop the ball or have mistakes. I didn’t want to hurt my team. I came here, the more I was running, the more comfortable I started to feel. I’m glad I came back up here. I think it helped me out a lot.”
Cornerback Lardarius Webb and running back Ray Rice both said they weren’t sure they could’ve taken the field less than 24 hours after such a significant family tragedy.
“Every time I even think about Torrey, I just literally drop my head. It’s hard,” Webb said. “I’ve never lost a brother, but I think that it has to hurt - one of your siblings or one of your guys, one of your brothers. It hurts. You just have to be there for him. Whenever he’s down, you have to pick him up, and he had a great game tonight. This whole game, I dedicated to him. I just hopes he just keeps his head up first and just stays strong.”
Said Rice: “Amazing. If I lost a brother, I couldn’t be here if I was him. It’s just too close. ... It takes a strong man to do that.”