Steve Smith Sr. pulled off the ultimate NFL playbook heist when he signed with Baltimore

It’s well known that NFL teams treat their playbooks like top secret government files, so the idea of a disgruntled star player being able to leave a franchise with one seems preposterous.

The Cowboys aren’t letting Dez Bryant walk out their door with their schemes, the Packers probably wiped Jordy Nelson’s memory before he took off for Oakland and you’d have a better chance of breaking into Fort Knox than getting anything out of Foxborough.

So if what he says is true, leave it to former wide out Steve Smith to pull off one of the great espionage acts in NFL history when he went from Carolina to Baltimore in 2014.

Retired wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. didn’t leave Carolina empty-handed in 2014 when he joined the Baltimore Ravens. (AP)
Retired wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. didn’t leave Carolina empty-handed in 2014 when he joined the Baltimore Ravens. (AP)

On NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football,” Smith and his co-hosts were trying to pick the winner of the Houston Texans-Denver Broncos matchup when the conversation turned to Demaryius Thomas and how much insight on his former team he could provide. That led Smith to recall how he was able to slyly hand over all of the Panthers’ plays to the Ravens upon being unceremoniously cut from Carolina in 2014 — just one season after signing a three-year extension.

The key to Smith’s Hall-of-Fame-worthy act of pettiness was the fact that the Panthers had recently switched to loading all of their plays onto a tablet while not realizing that Smith still had his old, physical copy of the book laying around when they cut him. Smith happily turned in his iPad before taking the physical version with him to Baltimore where it vanished from his locker only to miraculously turn up again days later.

If you need any proof of how crucial information like that is to NFL teams, look no further than the box score of the first Panthers-Ravens game after Smith switched teams.

Baltimore demolished Carolina 38-10 while holding Cam Newton to less than 200 yards while Joe Flacco went off for 327 yards and three touchdowns — two of which went to Smith.

What a coincidence. In fact, the opening score of the game was a 61-yard touchdown to Smith in the second quarter to kick off a 28-7 run.

Smith was with the Panthers for more than a decade, so perhaps he didn’t need the playbook in order to give his new team some dirt on a future opponent, but it certainly didn’t hurt to have it all written down.

In any case, there’s no telling what an NFL team wouldn’t do to keep that information locked up. It’s a miracle Smith lived to tell the tale.

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Blake Schuster is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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