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Why did Steve Smith come back to the Ravens? To reach 1,000 receptions

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- When Steve Smith Sr. suffered a season-ending Achilles injury last year, most expected him to forgo retirement for a year because the ultra-competitive wide receiver wouldn't want his final NFL moment to be getting carried off the field with a towel draped over his head.

But, when asked why he returned given all of the challenges facing him with this injury, Smith provided a different, more goal-oriented answer.

"One thousand receptions," Smith said during the Baltimore Ravens' mandatory minicamp. "That's why, to be honest. Why not? You have to have something to strive for."

Smith needs 39 receptions to become the 14th player in NFL history to achieve that milestone. He would've reached that goal last season if he didn't get injured because he had 46 catches in seven games.

Now Smith's back for some unfinished numerical business. Given that Smith has averaged over five catches per game with Baltimore, he is on pace to eclipse 1,000 catches by midseason.

"I may catch that [1,000th pass] in my uniform, get in my car and go home," Smith said with a smile. "Straight from there, drive all the way from M&T Bank [Stadium] straight to Charlotte, one shot."

Of the 13 players who have made 1,000 catches, six have been eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Four -- Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Marvin Harrison -- have been inducted. Only two -- Terrell Owens and Isaac Bruce -- are waiting to get in.

Smith also only needs 68 yards receiving to reach 14,000 yards, which is an important milestone to him and Hall of Fame voters. Five of the seven eligible players to eclipse that mark are in the Hall.

"You think about the Hall of Fame," Smith said. "You think about the Super Bowl. Now with the way news is going, you think about the Pro Bowl in Orlando. You think about a lot of things. Ultimately, it's out of my hands, but I just want to go out and have fun doing it."