Ravens: Smooth first day for Jimmy Smith

OWINGS MILLS - Shadowing Anquan Boldin after jamming him in the chest with a quick movement of his tattooed arms, imposing Baltimore Ravens rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith wasn't intimidated by the veteran wide receiver. He matched Boldin's footwork and maintained his leverage on a short route. And he displayed his speed and coverage ability on some deeper pass patterns

Joining the Ravens on the practice field for the first time after signing a five-year, $7.46 million contract that includes a $3.9 million signing bonus, the first-round draft pick from Colorado is already staking out his turf. He's intent on earning a starting job for the Ravens' season-opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but ran with the second-team defense Friday behind Domonique Foxworth and Lardarius Webb.

"I absolutely think so," Smith said. "It's definitely going to take some work, but I definitely think I could be a starter." The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder towered over his colleagues. Smith is the prototype cornerback as far as the requisite size, speed and strength. Smith covers 40 yards in 4.4 seconds and has a large upper body for a cornerback. He's even bigger than the Ravens' safeties.

"I think he's got a ways to go, just in a lot of ways," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Obviously, he has all the tools. He has a really good attitude and he is a hard worker. I think he has to learn how to be a professional, and I'm very certain he can do that."

Being a professional requires more than just diligence on the field or the weight room. While waiting for his contract to be finalized Thursday night, Smith ran two miles. Besieged by questions about his character before the NFL draft due to a series of underage drinking citations, a third-degree assault case as many as three failed drug tests, including one for codeine, and other incidents while he was a freshman and a sophomore, Smith seems to now understand what's expected of him away from football.

Often compared to mercurial former Ravens Pro Bowl defensive back Chris McAlister, a big shutdown cornerback who had several legal problems and controversies while he was with the team, Smith said he won't repeat those mistakes. "I haven't seen his game or how he plays, but I hear a lot of comparisons," Smith said of McAlister, who's now retired. "I also hear a lot of things that I don't want to fall into that he did." And Smith seems to relish the gritty aspect of football.

He gets right in receivers' faces and dares them to run by him. Despite his talent and bold nature, it's still a time of adjustment for Smith. "They're a little different because usually in college they try to juke and get off the run," Smith said. "These receivers run right into you and throw you off of them. I like the physicality of it." Boldin is a challenge for veteran and rookie cornerbacks because of his power, experience and crisp routes.

However, Smith stayed right there with him. "I think he kind of rolls with a little hitch, but I think I pressed him up pretty good," Smith said.

Sporting several new tattoos, including one of his nickname, ‘Beans' on his forearm that's still bleeding from being recently applied, Smith also has a large writing on the inside of his bicep. It reads, "Different Breed," an appropriate moniker considering that few cornerbacks are as physically gifted as the Southern California native. There's still a major learning curve, though, for Smith to overcome.

Due to the NFL lockout that ended earlier this week, Smith hasn't had the benefit of minicamps, organized team activities, classroom sessions or a supervised conditioning program.

"Obviously, he has lost those opportunities," Harbaugh said. "That's the way it is this year. We'll just have to overcome that." In terms of knowledge of the game, Smith said the Ravens' system is similar to what he did in college.

And he obtained a playbook from the Ravens during the one day draft picks could visit with their teams after being selected. "I read through it a lot," Smith said. "A lot of the schemes were like my college defenses, so I got it pretty quick. Even in the meeting rooms, we're going through the defense really rapid. I see it, and then I just get it." Smith wasn't star-struck even though he was in the company of All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

"It's not so much awe, I mean Ray Lewis was playing in the league when I was seven years old," Smith said. "Man, that's crazy. I'm kind of past that already. I'm just trying to get on the field and play some ball."

Not being intimidated, having the necessary swagger to play cornerback and the short memory required for a position where everyone gets beat sometimes, those interpersonal qualities seem to be in supply for the Ravens' prize rookie.

"I think I did pretty good for the first day," Smith said. "I don't know if everybody was tired, but it was not fast for me." Smith did lose one personal battle to speedy rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith, the Ravens' second-round draft pick from the University of Maryland.

Covering Smith closely, Jimmy Smith allowed a long spiral to loop over his head and into Smith's outstretched hands.

"We're going to have that matchup for a while, so I'll get used to him real quick," Smith said. "He's got speed on him and he's got good hands, so it's definitely going to be a competitive rivalry between us both being named Smith anyway. Got to fight for the name."

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