OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- As soon as Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam described Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson as "pretty old," everyone focused on how ticked off that will make the NFL's best receiver.
Just like Johnson suggested, Elam isn't the one lining up across from Megatron every play. That's the job for Smith and Webb. And it's a job that just got tougher after Elam curiously accused the 28-year-old Johnson as being old when he's actually in his prime.
"I'll show him what that old man's strength about," Johnson said in a conference call Thursday with Baltimore reporters.
Gulp. If I'm Smith or Webb, I went up to Elam this morning, saying, "What were you thinking, rookie?"
Look at Johnson's receiving yards for his past four home games: 115, 329, 115 and 101. Now, Johnson is talking about how he puts all the negative comments in "a box" and uses it for motivation on game days.
Part of the problem is Elam has never faced Johnson on the field. Smith and other Ravens certainly have. It was the 2012 preseason when the Ravens allowed Johnson to catch five passes for 111 yards and one touchdown -- and that was in less than one full half of work.
Elam, a free safety who often lines up 15 yards off the line, won't have to to see Johnson unless, as the receiver puts it, is running past him. This has been a problem for the Ravens, who have allowed a league-worst 16 passes over 40 yards.
How do the Ravens plan to slow down Johnson? Elam alluded to playing press coverage on Johnson because older receivers aren't going to be as physical. Saying Johnson isn't physical is like saying Ndamukong Suh isn't a nasty player.
Jimmy Smith is scheduled to speak to the Baltimore media later Thursday afternoon. My guess is he'll be extremely complimentary of Johnson. It's something Smith wished Elam would have done earlier this week. Monday night just became a lot more challenging for any Ravens cornerback trying to slow down Johnson.