Sweet revenge for Steve Smith Sr.
College Contributor Network
Whenever someone doubts that you can do a job or accomplish a task, it always motivates you to work even harder to prove them wrong. That was the case with veteran Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., who had plenty to prove this past Sunday.
For the first 13 years of his fantastic NFL career, Smith Sr. was the star receiver for the Carolina Panthers. He was a five-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro, and led all receivers in yards, touchdowns, and receptions during the 2005 season. Most notably, Smith Sr. helped lead the Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII where they lost to Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the New England Patriots. Needless to say, Smith was the face and leader of the franchise.
Despite a successful 2013 season in which Carolina won the NFC South and hosted a divisional round playoff game, the Panthers decided to part ways with Smith Sr. Not even a day later, he had already signed a three-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens.
Panthers fans and the greater Charlotte community were extremely upset when the team released Smith Sr. Many felt he deserved his own statue someday outside of Bank of America Stadium and that he was a Panther for life. He was not just a great leader on the field; he was a role model off the field in the local community. Charlotte was home for him and his family.
Not surprisingly, Smith Sr. was very upset that Carolina let him go. He felt as if the franchise didn't believe in him anymore and was signaling that his best days were behind him. Unfortunately for the Panthers, it was their loss.
When the 2014 NFL schedule was released, Smith Sr. immediately circled Sept. 28 on his calendar. He and the Ravens would host his former team in Week 4. Smith Sr., a man always known for speaking his mind without fear of judgment from others, knew that this was his chance to prove the doubters wrong.
And that is exactly what he did. With emotions running high, Smith Sr. was able to control his excitement and produce a huge day on the field that showed what the Ravens had gained and the Panthers had lost.
Smith Sr. caught seven receptions for 139 yards, which included two touchdown passes from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in the first half. Those stats make any fantasy owner of Smith Sr. proudly smile.
The first touchdown pass went off the hands of Ravens tight end Owen Daniels and perfectly into those of Smith Sr., who was running his route right behind Daniels. The second touchdown came on a vintage Flacco deep ball which gave the Ravens the lead for good on Sunday afternoon in their 38-10 win.
On top of proving that he is still a great receiver, Sunday's game showed us more about the role Smith Sr. is playing for the Ravens and the impact his absence is having on the Panthers.
Through the first four weeks of the season, it has become clear that Smith Sr. is Flacco's new favorite target. Not only does he bring great veteran leadership to the Ravens' locker room, but Smith Sr. also brings to the Ravens a deep ball threat to whom Flacco can launch the ball and let him go after it. Between Flacco's arm (one of the best in the NFL) and Smith Sr.'s speed, it's a combination that is destined for success.
On the other hand, Smith Sr.'s absence is definitely having an impact on Carolina's offense and locker room. First and foremost, quarterback Cam Newton has now had to step up and be the sole leader of this squad. Second, the departure of Smith Sr. took an important part out of Newton's offensive arsenal. Yes, Kelvin Benjamin has been a great replacement, but trying to sell Panthers fans that Jerricho Cotchery is a better fit than Smith Sr. is just not a good idea.
Now is the time for Steve Smith Sr. and the Panthers organization to move on in separate directions. The rematch has happened, and Smith Sr. got the last laugh against his old mates. Now, let's see if the veteran wide receiver can help lead the Ravens back to the playoffs.
Pat Ralph is a junior at Villanova University. He has a passion for Philadelphia sports, especially the Phillies and Eagles, as well as Villanova Basketball and the New York Knicks. Follow him on Twitter: @Pat_Ralph