Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith had the weekend off to ice up his sprained knee and word out of Charlotte was that the team expects to have him at practice on Wednesday.
Smith said Monday, via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, that he had the same expectation and is feeling stronger after two weeks off. Smith initially said he gave himself a 60 percent chance of playing, but then said he expects to play and that he was referring to his confidence that his knee will be able to hold up.
Smith is always a vital presence in the Panthers offense and their need for him is particularly acute for this game. Points were at a premium during the regular season matchup between the Panthers and 49ers and things don’t figure to be much different this time around, making Cam Newton’s top target central to the Panthers’ chances of winning.
Person reports Smith took part in the offensive install period of Monday’s practice before working on the side. Running back Jonathan Stewart, tight end Ben Hartsock, defensive tackle Colin Cole and safety Quintin Mikell didn’t practice on Monday, although the Panthers expect to have Stewart and Cole back on Wednesday as well.