|Panthers WR Steve Smith says it would 'foolish' for him to look beyond this season|
|Written by Steve Reed|
|Tuesday, 21 December 2010 17:25|
CHARLOTTE – Amid speculation he might be trying to force his way out of the Carolina Panthers, wide receiver Steve Smith addressed his future on Tuesday but didn’t offer many hints as to what it might entail.|
Smith, 31, has two years left on his current deal with the Panthers (he's scheduled to make $7 million in 2011 and $7.75 million in 2012), but said right now his focus is on finishing up this season, not next year.
“Am I concerned about my contract? No. Am I looking forward to the end of the year? Actually not,” said Smith.
Smith said it would be “foolish” to discuss his future now with two games remaining against a pair of difficult opponents -- the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night and the Atlanta Falcons on Jan. 2.
“Looking past them as if they’re not going to come hit you in the mouth would be foolish, unprofessional and get you hurt,” Smith said.
“I’m not focusing on next year because Thursday is going to be bad weather and cold. It will be a tough physical game and I have my teammates counting on me to play ball. And then we go down to Atlanta. So there’s more on my plate than these next couple of years. You worry about today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.”
Smith said he plans to discuss his future with the Panthers with his wife Angie and their children after the season. But even then, his future is largely up the Panthers, who have his rights for two more years and likely wouldn’t release him.
Smith admitted he has spoken to Panthers owner Jerry Richardson recently, but said that’s nothing out of the ordinary.
He refused to share the details of that conversation.
“My conversation with Mr. Richardson is nothing that is anything different (than) all the multiple conversations that we've always had – a few good and a few bad. But we always talk,” Smith said. “We'll always talk, whether I'm an employee here or not. The relationship I have with Mr. Richardson is very unique. You form relationships with people that last a lifetime.”
A four-time Pro Bowl selection, Smith has endured difficult back-to-back seasons with the Panthers amidst inconsistent quarterback play.
Smith had 65 receptions for 982 yards with seven touchdowns a year ago, which was low by his own high standards. By comparison, this year has been a complete abomination with only 43 catches for 537 yards and two touchdowns to his name. He’s not caught a touchdown pass in 12 straight games, the longest draught of his NFL career.
At times he’s vented his frustration at rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen, saying he has “a lot to learn” about playing in the NFL.
Smith also addressed an internet report on profootballtalk.com that his house has been on the market.
But he said he decided to put the house on the market back in March when he and his wife were “thinking about adding to our family." The property, located in Union County, has been listed since June.
“So it just didn't hit this last couple weeks,” he said. “It was well thought out, like anything else that is done in my household.”
After Sunday’s game, Smith applauded in the direction of fans as he headed out the tunnel at Bank of America Stadium for the final time this season.
He said that was a sign of respect for the fans that have stuck with the team.
“Those fans have been there for a long time,” Smith said. “They have been through a lot this year so just to run off the field like it was nothing wouldn’t be fair to them because they have watched a pretty low standard of football in that stadium, according to lot of people in this facility from the owner all the way down to the players. They have been there and I think they deserve to be applauded for rooting for us when we were stinking it up.”
Smith was one of a handful of players over age 30 who survived a salary cap purge and was retained by the Panthers this past offseason, along with John Kasay, Jason Baker, Jordan Gross and Tyler Brayton.
The Panthers didn’t bring in a veteran No. 2 receiver to pair with Smith – as he had publically asked them to do – this past offseason. General manager Marty Hurney said later that he wanted the young receivers the team drafted to grow alongside a young quarterback.
Yet the Panthers kept Smith.
As to whether they will do the same next season or trade him to another team remains to be seen.