Now that the firestorm regarding the release of the best player in franchise history has died down a bit, the Panthers can get about the business of justifying the release of the best player in franchise history.
Speaking at the NFC coaches breakfast at the owners meetings this morning, Panthers coach Ron Rivera suggested that age has caused Steve Smith to lose a step, and his practice habits might lead him to miss more time as he ages.
“He doesn’t have the top-end speed like he used to, but he still has good speed,” Rivera said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer.
That sound you hear is Smith hitting “print” right now, so he can tack this on his personal bulletin board in anticipation of the “blood and guts” game the Ravens play against the Panthers this year. Smith has always used perceived slights as motivation, even if he had to invent them. This just makes it easier for him.
Rivera stood firmly by the Panthers line that the decision was a football call, which seems odd considering they’re replacing him with a cast of TBAs and Jerricho Cotchery.
Rivera also said Smith should consider easing up a bit on practice to stay healthy. Of course, Smith has always flung himself at every workout, and other than missing a season with a broken leg, he missed only 11 games in his other 12 seasons with the Panthers.
“Steve will still find ways to make plays,” Rivera said. “And as far as football decisions go, we have to move on eventually. This was an opportunity to do it.”
There’s no good way for the Panthers to have made a decision like this one, but suggesting it was something other than what it was — a way to get a perceived bad influence out of the locker room away from young receivers and an emerging quarterback — insults our intelligence and Smith’s legacy.