<
>

Another birthday, another challenge for 37-year-old Steve Smith

The Baltimore Ravens' Steve Smith said last year that "age is just a number," and the oldest wide receiver in the NFL will get to prove that again as he turns 37 Thursday.

Smith is looking to become the second player in NFL history to record more than 1,000 yards receiving at the age of 37 or older, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The only person to accomplish such an ageless feat was Jerry Rice and that was 15 years ago.

"The numbers I put up will be the numbers I put up, and I'll happen to put up those numbers at the age of 37," Smith said at the end of last season. "Can I run like I used to at 22? No, but I'm comfortable being 37 years old, being on this team, and they're comfortable with me, so we're going to operate that way."

Not only should Smith's age be underscored, his durability has been quite an achievement as well. To put Smith's extended run in perspective, his first season in the NFL was 2001, when the NFL's leading passer was Kurt Warner, the top rusher was Priest Holmes and the most productive receiver was David Boston.

Smith, who plans to retire after the 2016 season, ranks No. 11 on the NFL's all-time receiving list with 13,932 yards. He is one spot ahead of Cris Carter and one behind James Lofton. Carter and Lofton are Hall of Fame receivers.

Like Carter, Smith has been a model of consistency even in the latter part of his career. He's exceeded 1,000 yards receiving in three of his past five seasons, and he probably would've reached that number last season if not for being limited to seven games due to back and Achilles injuries.

There will be questions about whether Smith can be as successful this season. He is still rehabbing an Achilles injury that can affect a player's explosiveness, and the Ravens are much deeper at receiver now with free-agent addition Mike Wallace, a healthier Breshad Perriman and a more proven Kamar Aiken.

All of this only serves to motivate Smith.

"I think what you need to do is let me play and quit commenting about my play, because every time you all tell me something I can't do, then you have a reason [for] why I'm doing it," he said. "I was 36 years old and close to the top five. Just let me play. Quit asking me what I'm going to put up. I'm going to put up the numbers I'm going to put up, and I'll contribute the way I contribute at 37.”