OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. sees a different Adam "Pacman" Jones these days, even after the recent head-slamming scuffle involving the Cincinnati Bengals cornerback.
"In my personal opinion, I think as [Jones] has gotten older, he has gotten a little bit more mature in the aspect of playing football," Smith said. "He’s more patient. He has become a very sound tackler. [He has] route recognition, so that tells me he watches a lot of film versus relying on his athleticism."
The matchup between Smith and Jones has a chance of becoming one of the better and more intense matchups on the field Sunday, when the undefeated Bengals (2-0) play at the winless Ravens (0-2).
Jones was fined $35,000 by the NFL this month for slamming Raiders receiver Amari Cooper's head into his helmet during the season opener. He has appealed it because he contends Cooper instigated the fight by jabbing him in the throat.
It was only last month when Smith was involved in his own altercation with Redskins cornerback Chris Culliver. He was ejected from the third preseason game and fined an undisclosed amount by the league for a shoving match that followed Ravens receiver Kamar Aiken getting thrown head-first into the ground.
"At the end of the day, football is an emotional game," Smith said. "You can hear it on the broadcast -- or if you watch it as a fan -- they say, 'The momentum has shifted.' How does momentum shift? By players making plays and getting emotional."
Smith is coming off his best game as a Raven, catching 10 passes for 150 yards. It's his most receiving yards October 2011.
That's what makes the storyline even more interesting when Smith lines up against Jones, who has graded out as the third-best cornerback in the NFL after two weeks by Pro Football Focus. Only Denver's Aqib Talib and Miami's Brent Grimes are rated higher. Receivers are only averaging 8.9 yards per completion against Jones this year.
"At the end of the day, that corner’s job is to cover me, and how he decides to cover me and how he decides to play [is on him]," Smith said. "Really, for me, I go in there, and I go with my game plan [based] on what I’ve watched on film -- and how I decide to play against him – and then we see how that plays out during the game."