OWINGS MILLS -- Months removed from his top NFL season ever, running back Musa Smith is still waiting for an elusive telephone call to determine where he'll play football next season.
After five primarily injury-plagued years with the Baltimore Ravens, Smith remains an unrestricted free agent in search of new employment.
Unlike a year ago where Smith signed a one-year, $1 million contract with Baltimore, it has been an arduous wait as the marketplace is skidding to a halt while franchises concentrate on preparations for next month's draft.
"I wasn't on the market this long last time in free agency, so this is different for me," Smith said. "I'm just staying busy, working out and just praying for a call to come through. Hopefully, some good things will happen."
Smith nearly wound up with the New York Jets, but his scheduled visit was canceled after they signed former Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers runner Jesse Chatman on offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's recommendation.
"It was between me and Jesse, but he had a history with Schottenheimer in San Diego," Smith said. "They left it up to Schottenheimer, so he got the deal."
Unlike last year where Smith was coming off neck surgery, his health outlook is a positive one.
After finishing the previous three seasons on injured reserve due to a gruesome broken leg against the Dallas Cowboys in 2004 that nearly ended his career along with a neck injury, Smith has a clean bill of health.
"It is frustrating and disappointing to be on the market this long because I finished the season healthy," Smith said. "I got a full year under my belt, post-surgery, and played a lot of football. That was important to prove that I could do that.
"Some teams don't want to take a chance, but I'm healthy and I'm staying in good shape. I don't know what the problem is."
Smith rushed for a career-high 264 yards and two touchdowns last season, registering a career-high 27 receptions for 192 yards. He concluded the season with a career-high 83 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
When Smith arrived in Baltimore in 2003 as a third-round draft pick out of Georgia, he was all but formally anointed as star running back Jamal Lewis' eventual successor. However, injuries stymied that anticipated progression.
In five seasons, the former Southeastern Conference standout has gained 496 yards and scored four touchdowns on 132 carries with 54 catches for 363 yards.
Smith recently spoke to the Arizona Cardinals, but no deal is imminent. His agent, Jack Reale, held preliminary discussions with the Denver Broncos about a one-year contract, but nothing was finalized.
Smith's preference is to re-sign with Baltimore, but he hasn't talked business with team officials.
"I haven't really talked to Baltimore as far as a new contract, so it's been pretty quiet," Smith said. "I would love to come back because I think Ozzie Newsome and Steve Bisciotti did a great job of bringing in a good group of coaches.
"I would love to play for them again. Like a lot of teams, I know they're busy looking at what they're going to do in the draft."
Smith has met with new Ravens coach John Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery, offensive line coach John Matsko and special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.
"It seems like a great coaching staff, and I would definitely like the offense they're bringing in here," Smith said. "I think they're definitely going to be better than the previous years I've been here. I don't think the door is closed with the Ravens, but nothing is definite."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
Smith hopes to re-sign with Ravens
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