(Updated: 2:55 p.m.)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens’ depth at cornerback took another serious hit Thursday after the announcement that 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith has undergone groin surgery in Philadelphia.
Smith sat out Sunday’s win over the Oakland Raiders after he was unable to loosen up the injured groin during pre-game activities. The 24-year-old was listed as active but was unable to play, prompting coach John Harbaugh to express concern following the game about the need to reevaluate the defensive back earlier this week.
The Ravens say they expect Smith to return before the end of the season.
“That’s a tough loss obviously,” veteran cornerback Corey Graham said. “Jimmy makes a lot of plays for us. He’s been playing here all this year and last year also. It’s big for us, but other guys have to step up. You’ve just got to go out there and make plays and find a way to get it done.”
Smith had replaced top cornerback Lardarius Webb in the starting lineup after the latter tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Oct. 14, the same day on which Smith first tweaked his groin. The cornerback had been limited in some practices, but he had never appeared to be in danger of not playing prior to sitting out in Week 10.
Graham is expected to assume starting duties after he played in Smith’s place in the 55-20 win over the Raiders. Second-year cornerback Chykie Brown played in the nickel package as Graham slid inside to cover the slot receiver.
“We’ve got to get the next guy ready and just get ready to go,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “I have a lot of confidence in them. They played OK. There were some plays they made and some plays they didn’t make. I think both of them are improving every day, and we’ve got to do a good job of putting them in the right spot.”
To boost their depth in the secondary, the Ravens signed former Oakland cornerback Chris Johnson earlier this week.
The 33-year-old is being brought up to speed quickly and could see action as early as this Sunday despite not even going to training camp with an NFL team this summer. Johnson made 29 starts and recorded eight interceptions for the Raiders from 2007 through last season.
It would be quite a set of circumstances for a debut with the Ravens facing their biggest rival at Heinz Field.
“I’m still catching up myself, but coaches and some of the players have shown me how to do it and what this rivalry is about,” the speedy cornerback said. “They say there’s nothing like Pittsburgh-Baltimore.”
(Updated: 2:55 p.m.)