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Ravens WR Smith beats defensive backs, adversity

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Ravens WR Smith beats defensive backs, adversity

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) On game day, Torrey Smith is a whirlwind of dreadlocks, speed and big-play catches.

None of this provides a hint of the hurdles he had to overcome to become the deep threat the Baltimore Ravens needed to make it to the Super Bowl.

After helping his single mother raise six other children, a chore that included working after school as a teenager, Smith accepted a scholarship to the University of Maryland. He played three seasons, scoring 22 touchdowns - including three on kickoff returns - before throwing his name into the mix for the 2011 NFL draft.

Smith was selected in the second round by Baltimore, and as rookie he quickly displayed the ability to get downfield although his inexperience resulted in several costly dropped passes.

Early this season, Smith ran sharper patterns and rarely let a ball slip through his fingers. But tragedy struck less than 24 hours before the Ravens faced New England on Sept. 23: Smith's younger brother, Tevin Jones, was killed in a motorcycle accident in Virginia.

Smith left the team to join his family, then returned to catch six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns to help Baltimore earn a 31-30 victory.

``Incredible,'' teammate Jacoby Jones said last week. ``I'm not sure many people could perform under those circumstances, let alone play so well. I really do admire him for that.''

Smith finished the regular season with eight TD catches and ranked fourth in the NFL with 17.4 yards per reception. In the second round of the playoffs, he twice burned standout cornerback Champ Bailey for long scores in the Ravens' 38-35 playoff win over top-seeded Denver. Smith then contributed four catches for 69 yards as Baltimore defeated New England 28-13 to advance to a Super Bowl showdown with San Francisco this Sunday.

Smith revealed after the AFC title game that several Patriots fans took to insulting him on Twitter.

``Played a lot of games since my brothers death and I never received as many rude tweets after a win than Sunday...yet NE fans cry about class,'' he tweeted.

Asked in New England how the Ravens emerged as conference champions despite being decided underdogs, Smith replied, ``It's who we are. That's what our city is, a tough city. You get knocked down, you've got to get back up. That's how life is. You just can't lay down and roll over. You've got to continue to fight.''

And so it is with Smith.

``We talk about the cauldron of competition and the fire that refines us. To me, Torrey is the perfect example of how the right kind of person is made of the right kind of stuff,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ``He's one of those rare players where there is no agenda. He just wants to know what's expected of him, so he can do the best he possibly can. He's not trying to fool you, he's not trying to impress you. He's just trying to be himself.''

For Smith to be at his best this season, it was important that he moved on after his brother's death.

``That's life. That's so long ago,'' Smith said with shrug Saturday as he packed his bags for a trip to New Orleans. ``That happens to everyone. Someone has someone pass, and you've just got to move on. I'm just focused on playing football.''

When Smith opted to leave Maryland before his senior year, his coach at the time, Ralph Friedgen, wasn't sure if it was the right decision. Friedgen no longer has any doubt that the 6-foot, 200-pound speedster has what it takes to be great.

``I see his hands improving and I see someone very confident in what he does,'' said Friedgen, who was fired after the 2010 season. ``When you can beat a guy like Champ Bailey twice, that can only help your confidence. Around the league, everyone knows that to beat the Ravens, you have to stop Torrey.''

Before Smith arrived, Harbaugh was desperate for a receiver that could get behind opposing safeties. Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, T.J. Houshmandzahdeh, and Donte Stallworth did so on occasion, but Smith has seemingly made it a habit.

Although his 49 catches were one fewer than last season, Smith increased his yardage from 841 to 855 and had 16 catches of 20 yards or more.

``It's definitely a process,'' Smith said. ``I don't think I am surprised, because with hard work you expect to do well, and you expect to continue to get better. I never get complacent. I have a long way to go, and I'm trying to work each and every day to get there. Later, down the line, there will be some trouble.''

Friedgen has no doubt.

``Once we got him at Maryland, he hadn't played much at wide receiver,'' the former coach said. ``But I thought he had the physical tools to be very good football player, and I was right. There's a learning curve in the NFL, because defensive backs can stay with you like a shadow. But Torrey has overcome that, and I don't think he's finished growing yet.''

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Suggs insists thought of retiring didn't cross his mind during rehab

Suggs insists thought of retiring didn't cross his mind during rehab

OWINGS MILLS – Not only does 33-year-old Terrell Suggs expect to be back on the field soon, the Ravens’ outside linebacker expects to play at a high level for several more seasons after recovering from his torn Achilles injury.

“It’s a fair question,” said Suggs on Wednesday, when asked what can realistically be expected from him in 2016. “This is 14 years for me. I came here a young 20-year-old, really didn’t know anything. I had some of the greatest Jedi Masters teaching me. It’s a fair question. We’ve seen a lot of Ravens come and go, and I’m one of the last few here. It’s a fair question, but in my eyes, premature.”

Suggs will begin training camp on the PUP list, but vows to be back soon.

“It’s not going to be long,” Suggs said. “We’re close to where we want to be. I can’t be timid, but I got to be smart. I feel good.”

Suggs suffered his season-ending Achilles injury Week 1 of last season, and has torn each of his Achilles once. Is it asking a lot for Suggs to still be an every-down player and double-digit sack artist? Yes. Does he sound up for the challenge? Yes.

MORE RAVENS: SUGGS' SHIRT ENDORSES GAME OF THRONES TICKET IN 2016 ELECTION

”Never did it cross my mind that I wasn’t going to come back,” Suggs said. “I got a lot of promises to keep. Many miles before I can sleep.  I love football. I love the locker room. I love my teammates. I love being out here being confrontational.”

Suggs also made it clear he wanted to silence doubters.

“We hear the gossip,” Suggs said. “We hear what y’all are saying. We’re confident, but motivated, too.”

One of the toughest parts of missing last season for Suggs was watching the Ravens go 5-11, and being unable to help.

“It was very tough to watch, and knowing what the guys went through, and for us to not have the success that we expected,” Suggs said. “It just didn’t feel good. Now we get a chance to kind of make it right. Last year’s gone, but we have to make sure that (same) team doesn’t show up Sept. 11 again. We work too hard. Our fans deserve better and we deserve better. We work our tails off. It takes a lot to be considered a Raven. We just got to get back to that.”

How well Suggs plays this year will play a part in determining his future. But as far as Suggs is concerned, it’s too early to start talking about his last ride.

“It’s not something I want to visit at the end of this year, or the end of next year,” Suggs said. “Maybe the year after that we can talk about it. What will I be, 36 then? But I’m not worried about it right now.”

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PHOTO: Suggs endorses Game of Thrones ticket with 2016 election T-shirt

PHOTO: Suggs endorses Game of Thrones ticket with 2016 election T-shirt

BY JEREMY FIALKOW (@JeremyFialkow)

Who are you voting for — Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Before you answer, let's turn to Ravens' outside linebacker Terrell Suggs for some other options.

Suggs, who's ready to make his triumphant return to football after a couple season-derailing injuries, tossed out his 2016 election endorsement to ... the Stark/Targaryen ticket?

The names, of course, stem from two powerful family names in HBO's hit show 'Game of Thrones.' 

(Screenshot/CSN Mid-Atlantic)

Whether Suggs actually stays up to date with 'Thrones' or if the network gifted him merchandise from all of their shows remains to be seen. Regardless, T-Sizzle is starting a movement, so climb aboard.

RELATED: FLACCO WON'T RUSH KNEE INJURY REHAB

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Justin Forsett not trying to hear about running-back-by-committee system

Justin Forsett not trying to hear about running-back-by-committee system

OWINGS MILLS – That running-back-by-committee system the Ravens are thinking about using? Justin Forsett isn’t feeling that.

What’s running-back-by-committee?” Forsett deadpanned. “I don’t understand that.”

Forsett laughed, but he was serious about retaining his starting job and doing the bulk of the work at running back. The Ravens are deep at the position, with Forsett, Buck Allen, rookie Kenneth Davis, Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro all ready for Thursday’s first full training camp practice, while Trent Richardson (knee) remains on the PUP list.

MORE RAVENS: WHY FLACCO WON'T RUSH TO PLAY IN PRESEASON

Forsett will turn 31 years old in October, and even if he retains the starting job, the Ravens are leaning toward reducing his carries. But Forsett enters training camp thinking he can still be a 200-carry, 1000-yard rusher. 

“I grew up with old school running backs,” Forsett said. “I love watching them play - Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, all those guys. Of course if you’re a running back, everybody wants to on the field all the time. I’m going to put myself in a position where they can’t take me off the field. That’s my mentality. At the end of the day, everybody has their role. I’ll let coach decide that.” 

Even if Forsett doesn’t carry the ball as much as he would like, count on him being a consummate team player. All of the Ravens’ younger backs will benefit from being around Forsett, who starts training camp vowing not to give in, to age, or to his running back competition.

“My goal is to go out and lead this team to a Super Bowl,” Forsett said. “I’m going to try to put myself in a position to do so. This is my ninth training camp. It’s a blessing. Me being fired three times throughout my career, traveling to five different teams, I don’t take it for granted.”