Steve Smith still loves Charlotte, and he still loves the Panthers, and he still loves team owner Jerry Richardson.
He might not have the same feelings after being fired by Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman.
“It doesn’t change my respect and relationship with the Panthers organization as far as Mr. and Mrs. Richardson and the family,” he said of his release, to host Taylor Zarzour on SiriusXM’s Bleacher Report Radio. “They’ve done great things for me as a man and professionally. You can’t allow an individual or individuals to change how much a corporation or organization has treated me. I won’t allow that to happen.
“I believe my legacy as a Carolina Panther exceeds one individual for a short amount of time.”
Smith said there was a small degree of shock when Gettleman told him he wasn’t in the team’s plans, since he had always prided himself on his work ethic.
“That was the first time I’ve ever been fired, or let go,” Smith said. “That was a unique experience.”
So will being a free agent, and Smith joked that he was going to “enjoy a few free dinners” and allow himself to be pursued.
He said he’s been floored by the local reaction, which included a sparsely attended protest outside Bank of America Stadium this afternoon.
“How supportive everyone has been is shocking. It’s awesome, unbelieveable,” he said. “Charlotte and Mr. Richardson have given me an opportunity, a knucklehead from L.A., that I can call Charlotte home. This is my home. This is my home that I have learned to love and grow up in as an adult. . . .
“I’m being relocated for a new job. But my job is temporary. But my residence here in Charlotte is permanent.”
Smith probably won’t be free for long, as teams will want to move quickly on the 34-year-old receiver, especially one motivated to show one person in particular he can still play.