Daryl Smith quietly filled Ray Lewis void

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens replaced Ray Lewis last season with a player who couldn't have been more different from the longtime face of the franchise.

Daryl Smith was one of the best players on the Ravens' defense, and many might not remember that because he did it in such an understated way. Unlike Lewis, Smith isn't known for giving fiery speeches or dancing during pregame introductions.

But no one talked about how much the Ravens missed Lewis in the middle of the season because of a player who is simply referred to as "Buck" by teammates.

"He didn't try to be anybody else. He leads in his own way," Ravens lineman Chris Canty said. "He's confident; he understands this game. He's played at a high level for a long time. A lot of people might not recognize that."

Smith has never yearned for the spotlight. Maybe that comes from playing nine seasons in a small market like Jacksonville.

All Smith did in his first season with the Ravens was become one of three players who ranked in the top 20 in tackles, recorded at least five sacks and had double digits in passes defensed. Tampa Bay's Lavonte David and Arizona's Karlos Dansby were the others.

During Lewis' decorated 17-year career, he never accomplished that statistical feat.

"I never really did think about [replacing Lewis] until it was brought up in a setting like this," Smith told reporters. "I didn't concentrate on doing anything but making my plays, picking up the defense and playing ball."

Smith wasn't signed until June last season because teams were concerned about his health. He was limited to two games in 2012 because of a sports hernia.

The Ravens never had to worry about Smith's durability. He was one of the Ravens' iron men, playing 99.5 percent of the defensive snaps last season.

"Daryl did a great job. Everything we expected and more," coach John Harbaugh said. "We thought he would play well for us, but all the intangibles, you just don't really know about a guy until you have him."

Smith, 32, re-signed with the Ravens in free agency, agreeing to a four-year, $16.1 million deal. His experience should help the development of two young draft picks, C.J. Mosley and Arthur Brown, who could end up eventually replacing Smith.

"I definitely wanted to come back," Smith said. "They gave me a shot last year, and I want to finish my career here."