A few years ago, another receiver named Steve Smith arrived on the scene, making it difficult to distinguish one receiver named Steve Smith from the more established Steve Smith in Carolina.
Now, the other Steve Smith has retired.
Not the Carolina Steve Smith, but the one who emerged as a standout slot receiver for the Giants in 2009. Indeed, for a while it looked like the new Steve Smith would supplant the old Steve Smith, via 1,220 receiving yards and a Pro Bowl berth.
Instead, the new Steve Smith is done after six NFL seasons.
“I’ve been blessed to play the game that I love at the highest level for the past six years,” Smith said in a release issued by the Buccaneers, whom Smith joined as a free agent earlier this year. “I will always cherish my time with the New York Giants and our Super Bowl victory in 2007. I also want to thank the Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers organizations for the opportunities they gave me. This was not an easy decision, but it’s the right decision for me at this time.”
Smith hasn’t been the same since a knee injury in 2010. The injury came at a time when the Giants and Smith were trying to work out a new contract, and he ended up leaving on the table a bunch of money he never was able to earn.
His experiences highlight the risks assumed by any player who opts to turn down the bird in the hand and roll the dice on a bigger contract later. Until the long-term deal is signed, the player bears the full risk of the consequences of a serious injury; in Smith’s case, that kept him from ever getting the contract he wanted.
Meanwhile, the original Steve Smith just keeps rolling along.