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Ravens giving Steve Smith time to think about future

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens want veteran wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. to take time before deciding whether he wants to return for his 15th NFL season.

Soon after Saturday's AFC divisional playoff loss, Smith posted a message on Instagram that he intended on coming back in 2015. Smith, who will turn 36 in May, also expressed a desire to coach John Harbaugh that he wanted to return.

"One thing that Ozzie [Newsome, Ravens general manager] mentioned to him -- which made a lot of sense -- is to take three weeks," Harbaugh said. "Take three weeks and get a chance to take a nap, figuratively, and kind of decide how you feel."

In his first season with the Ravens, Smith led the team with 79 catches and 1,065 receiving yards. It was the most receiving yards in a single season by a player 35 or older since Rod Smith had 1,105 yards in 2005.

But Smith did show signs of wearing down during the final two months of the regular season. In the first six games, Smith was the NFL's fifth-leading receiver with 573 yards receiving. In his last nine games, he produced 602 yards receiving, which ranked 40th in the league.

Smith made an impact in the playoffs, but the Ravens hinted at reducing his playing time if he comes back.

"Steve was brimming with enthusiasm last time I talked to him to come back and play a role – whatever role that might be," Harbaugh said. "He doesn’t have to be [in] a role where he’s playing every snap or anything like that, but he looks like he still has plenty left in the tank to me. So, hopefully we can … It’s up to Steve, really, in the end – how he feels and if he thinks he can do it physically.”

Harbaugh said it took time for people in the organization to understand Smith's fiery demeanor. Smith and cornerback Lardarius Webb exchanged shoves during a minicamp practice in June.

Smith told the coach that he felt like he fits in with the Ravens.

"I think that we’re good about that as a group, team and an organization – of taking people where they’re at, trying to look at their heart – and I think everybody felt like, ‘Hey, this guy is a competitor. This guy is a fighter. He’s a battler. He wants to do well and it matters to him,'" Harbaugh said. "And as long as the guys felt that way about him … I know they felt good about him, and they felt that way about him all year. That’s how I feel about him. I think he was a huge addition to our team this year."

Harbaugh then added, "We wouldn’t have had the season we had without Steve Smith on our team this year."