Six days after laying flat on the turf following a dangerous collision with Steelers tailback Le’Veon Bell, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith was practicing Wednesday.
Smith had been cleared through the concussion protocol and when talking to the media Thursday for the first time since the hit, said things are good health-wise.
“I’m fine. I’m good,” Smith said. “I was never knocked out completely. I was just kind of dazed for a minute, but I’m fine.”
And it was a relief to Smith that he never felt severe concussion symptoms, especially considering the heaviness of the blow that sent Bell’s helmet flying and led both players to be removed from the game.
But this isn’t new to the 25-year-old.
“I’ve had concussions before and I never really had symptoms afterward,” Smith said. “I don’t know. I must be a lucky guy or something, but I was pretty good afterward.”
On Wednesday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh seemed pretty glad that Smith wouldn’t likely be lost for any time, and went on to say the former first-round pick is emerging as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.
“I haven’t heard that yet. I appreciate it from my head coach telling me that. It’s pretty awesome,” Smith said. “... It’s a work in progress. I’ve had to do a whole lot of things to be able to turn into what I am. I’m proud of what I’ve done so far.”
Smith explained that the cliche of players improving because the game slows down is a cliche for a reason.
“There’s a lot of truth to that. Once you’re comfortable in a defense, the game slows down,” he said. “Everybody’s fast, but once you understand what’s going on, then mentally it slows down, not necessarily the physical aspect of it.”
While Smith used to get beat regularly and was nearing disappointment status, it is becoming rarer and rarer that teams throw his way because of his continuously improving coverage.
Smith is seventh on the Ravens with 45 tackles and third with a single-season career-high 11 passes defensed. His previous best was eight. He also has an interception and a forced fumble.
His teammates have noticed.
“He’s improved a lot. He’s gotten a lot better,” fellow cornerback Corey Graham said. “He’s become a student of the game. He’s making a lot of plays right now and he’s just more focused. He’s just more focused and he’s doing a good job doing what he does best - getting up there and being physical, and pressing right now. If he continues to do that, he’ll continue to get better.”
Physicality is what Harbaugh likes most about Smith as well.
“He’s just improved at the line of scrimmage. He’s always believed in that. He’s always embraced it,” Harbaugh said recently. “But he’s gotten better at it. He’s done a better job with the technique. He’s obviously built for that kind of a style. He’s also played well when he’s been off, too. I don’t want to shortchange him there either. He’s gotten better every single week, and he’s playing really good football for us.”
Update: Smith returned to practicing fully Thursday after being limited Wednesday as he eased back from his concussion.
Linebacker Elvis Dumervil (ankle) and safety Brynden Trawick (ankle) missed practice for a second straight day, and were joined on the sideline by cornerback Asa Jackson (thigh).
Defensive end Chris Canty (shoulder), wideout Brandon Stokley (knee) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (abs) were again limited participants.