|Panthers WR Smith excited about playing in an offense with limitless opportunities|
|Written by Steve Reed|
|Thursday, 15 September 2011 17:27|
CHARLOTTE – After Steve Smith hauled in his second reception of the first quarter Sunday against Arizona he fought the temptation to start counting catches.|
You can’t really blame him.
“In the past I would have to keep count because after four passes I was pretty much done for the day,” Smith said of his time spent late in the John Fox/Jeff Davidson era.
The Panthers would sometimes go back to him in the fourth quarter when it was too late to matter. Smith said at that point he felt like he had to make a “miracle catch” and when he failed to produce he felt like people would say he lost a step.
All of that has changed this year.
Or, at least it changed in Week 1 against the Cardinals.
Smith was back to his old productive self, showing the skills that made him a four-time Pro Bowler by catching eight of the 11 balls thrown his way for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“After two catches I said don’t focus on counting, don’t focus on the yards, don’t look up on the scoreboard to see how many yards you have – just play,” Smith said. “Have fun. Enjoy it.”
That’s become his new motto.
Have fun. Enjoy it.
It helps that Smith will have limitless opportunities in Rob Chudzinski's offense. Smith has been around long enough to know that he won’t be having games like he did against the Cardinals on a weekly basis. The Cardinals made the mistake of trying to cover Smith man-to-man more often than not. That’s rarely a good idea and coach Ron Rivera said he expects Green Bay won’t employ that same strategy this Sunday.
“But I hope they do,” Rivera said.
“I’m not worried about how many people they line up on me and how many they don’t,” Smith said. “They have a great secondary and you aren’t going to have game where you catch eight passes for 200 yards and come back and catch 10 for 300 (the next week). It just doesn’t happen. Teams have jobs they have to protect.”
Smith said he doesn’t know how to talk about this year’s offensive scheme without sounding like he’s criticizing the old regime.
But clearly he’s happier with how he’s being used.
“At times I will be running to occupy the safeties, which I’m fine with,” Smith said. “Most of the time in the past I was the only one running to occupy the safety.”
Smith has more weapons around him now.
There’s tight ends Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey. Smith also like Legedu “L.A.” Naanee and feels like Brandon LaFell is developing into a quality receiver and the team has quality options coming out of the backfield, too.
“It’s not just a one-man show,” Smith said. “It’s a group effort. I lean on L.A. a lot because he’s been in the system to tell me about what they’re looking for in this particular play or that particular play.
“It’s about spacing. In years past it was run out of the break as fast as I can and break this way, break that way. It was a lot of hard cutting on my knees and stuff. Here’s it’s about getting to the right spot and no matter how you get there, you get there fast and efficient and be ready and be prepared for the quarterback.”
Oh yes, the quarterback.
Smith said he and Cam Newton have an “evolving relationship,” but said they get along well, jokingly attributing it to the fact they were born one day apart under the same birth sign of Taurus.
“I think there’s a lot more things in common besides the obvious,” Smith said. “He has a huge drive to win, and not just to win by three points or a little bit, but to drag dudes through the mud and that type of mentality.”
Then he added, “I relate to that very well.”
Smith really got to know Newton in the offseason when the two worked out together in Charlotte.
Although Smith wouldn’t go into the details of those workouts or exactly who was involved, he said he thinks they helped when it came to Sunday’s game.
“It looked like it,” Smith said. “Hopefully it continues and hopefully we improve. It’s only one game so you can’t throw a parade. But it’s something to build on, so that’s a good thing.”