CINCINNATI -- One by one, Baltimore Ravens players came up to an emotional Steve Smith Sr. in the final minutes of Sunday's 27-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals to pay their respects to one of the most prolific wide receivers in NFL history.
By the time he reached the locker room, Smith sounded like someone who had said goodbye to the game.
"I enjoyed it," Smith said. "But it's over and it's done. I know it's my time. Some people say, 'Can I play another year?' I probably could but what I lose, I'm not willing to risk."
Smith's final game wasn't one of his most memorable ones over a remarkable 16-year career. He finished with three catches for 34 yards, and the only deep pass thrown his way sailed five yards over his head. But the fiery Smith did get in one last skirmish when he ran after Bengals safety Shawn Williams following an unnecessary roughness penalty.
For Smith, 37, this finale wasn't about the stats. It was a culmination of a week where he soaked in all the moments.
"For a long time, football has been PCH highway where I just kind of gone and done it over and over and over," said Smith, a Los Angeles native, using the famous California coastline highway as a metaphor. "Yet very rarely have I pulled over and appreciated the sunset with my wife, with my kids."
Parting ways with Smith was difficult for his teammates, too.
"What a competitor, what a player," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He did so many things for this team. It's definitely a tough reality."
A five-time Pro Bowl player, Smith is 12th in league history in receptions (1,028) and seventh in receiving yards (14,697).
As soon as the game ended, Smith said the first emotion that hit him was relief.
"Playing this game and the expectations that are expected from you, there's a lot of pressure," he said. "The pressure I'll have now is getting kids to school on time. Do I eat a pint of ice cream or a gallon of ice cream? It's going to be different, but it's something I look forward to."