Daryl Smith ready to jump in with Ravens defense

The Baltimore Sun

Veteran linebacker Daryl Smith had a blade of grass sticking to his head along with a smile that wouldn't quit following his second practice since joining the Ravens.

The Jaguars' all-time leading tackler is thoroughly enjoying his new winning environment after being limited to two wins and playing in just two games during an injury-plagued final season in Jacksonville.

Now, Smith is signed to a one-year contract worth up to $2.125 million with the defending Super Bowl champions and has been immediately installed as a starter at inside linebacker.

"Great, man," Smith said when asked how he feels about his change in circumstances after playing his first nine seasons in Jacksonville. "Ain't no guarantee that we can get back there. All I know is that the opportunity is there. I'm just hoping to be a part of that. I ain't going to lie, this is my 10th year, I definitely want to win, get to the playoffs and get a shot at the title.

"I feel good, man. It feels good to get out here and get back to football, just trying to soak up everything I can as quickly as I can. We're out here moving fast, so I'm just happy to get out here and move around with the guys."

Smith is expected to compete for a starting role inside next to second-round draft pick Arthur Brown.

With Brown coming off sports hernia surgery and Jameel McClain still awaiting medical clearance from a spinal cord contusion from last December, Smith could provide a proven, instinctive presence in the middle of the Ravens' defense.

Smith was praised by coach John Harbaugh for how he's picking up the defense, calling signals in his first practice. Smith has run well to the football and looks strong.

"Daryl Smith looked good," Harbaugh said. "Obviously, he is packing a lot of learning into one practice here, but he was calling the defenders. He was setting the defense, and he didn't seem to have any issues at all."

Smith underwent sports hernia surgery in October, but declared his health is fine. He just has a lot to learn as he adjusts to a new team and defense.

"I feel healthy, just rusty," Smith said. "These guys have been out here. I’ve only been doing conditioning and lifting weights. You can’t duplicate football, just being out here. That’s what I’m doing now.

"I did my surgery in October, I came back to play the last two games. I'm getting stronger. I feel pretty good."

Since being drafted in the second round of the 2004 draft out of Georgia Tech, the 6-foot-2, 248-pounder has recorded 1,090 career tackles, 21 1/2 sacks, six interceptions and nine forced fumbles. He's known as a gritty run-stopper.

"They’ve always been known as a team that plays great defense," Smith said. "I’m going to come and do what I can. Whatever they need I’ll do it, teach the young guys a thing or two, hoping to learn something from the guys that are already here."

It was an extremely quiet free agency experience for Smith when his five-year, $24.5 million contract expired.

He visited the St. Louis Rams in April, but left town without a deal.

"Going into it my first time hitting free agency, I didn't know what to expect," Smith said. "Of course, it was frustrating after a long time went by and teams calling and stuff, but just didn't pull the trigger. The Ravens were one of the teams from the start. I was happy to take a visit up here."

While his old team attempts to reinvent itself as a winner after going 2-14 last season, Smith said he's taking nothing for granted about his new employer.

After a season where he was limited to a career-low six tackles, Smith said he's looking forward to regaining his old form.

"I can be a very productive player," Smith said. "I think every year you’ve to got to go in and prove yourself. This year ain't no different. It’s just new scenery. I can sit up here and tell you what I can be, but I got to get on the field and show it. That’s all I’m looking for, an opportunity."

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