Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith told reporters last week he is going through a boxing regimen to get in the best shape of his NFL career. It's focusing on conditioning drills and the speed bag. So, no sparring is involved.
"I feel great, I feel like I did in college," said Smith, who has lost 10 pounds to get down to 200.
Smith's health is a big reason why he has been among the most disappointing first-round picks in Ravens history at this point. He's only made five starts in two seasons, which is far below Ravens' standards.
Before Smith, the fewest starts by a Ravens' first round pick in his first two seasons was 17 (Terrell Suggs). Of the Ravens' 16 first-round picks prior to Smith, half made 30 or more starts in their first two seasons.
Smith's career got off to a rough start when he suffered a high ankle sprain on the season-opening kickoff of his rookie season. He's battled back problems throughout his Ravens career and then underwent sports hernia surgery last November. For his career, he's had more missed games (nine) than starts.
Smith, though, has come up with timely big plays, especially in the playoffs. As a rookie, he intercepted Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game. Then, last season, his physical play against Michael Crabtree on fourth-and-goal helped Baltimore win the Super Bowl.
Still, Smith's lack of consistency has been a disappointment for Baltimore. After the Ravens selected him 27th overall in 2011, Smith couldn't beat out Cary Williams for the starting job. Last season, when Lardarius Webb got hurt, the Ravens turned to Corey Graham, a Pro Bowl special teams player, over Smith.
Now, with Williams signing with the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency, Smith will compete against Graham for a starting job.
"Anybody can emerge and be a starter," Smith said. "I've been wanting to starter since Day 1, but God had a plan. I'm still just learning, trying to become a better player in the classroom and on the field, trying to diagnose plays and read things and be a student of the game."
Smith added, "You always want to go uphill. You never want to digress. I'm trying to pick up where I left off and do even better. I feel like I've improved. Everything is a work in progress. I'm still trying to climb the mountain. I'm not where I want to be yet, but I'll be there."