Veteran wide receiver Steve Smith announced what amounts to his intention to retire after Sunday’s Ravens game.
But his former team — or at least part of it — would like him to eventually come home.
Via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he thought Smith could keep playing if he wanted to, and deserved to be honored for his work in Carolina.
“That’s up to Steve. I think he should, though,” Rivera said of a ceremonial retirement in Charlotte. “Think of all the years he’s played here. But it’s up to him. He’ll decide what he wants to do and he’s earned the right. What he wants to do is up to him.”
The stats say he should, but the stats don’t tell nearly enough of the story for it to sway Smith.
He had a close relationship with owner Jerry Richardson but left the Panthers on poor terms, another veteran who was nudged to the door by General Manager Dave Gettleman in the interest of building for the future (like Jordan Gross and DeAngelo Williams). And even though Smith’s offseason home remains in the city where he was drafted in 2001, he can carry a big grudge for such a little fella. So while Rivera might like it if Smith eventually comes back to for the honor he deserves, he’s absolutely right in that the decision will be made by Smith alone. And betting on Smith’s mood on a day-to-day basis has been a losing proposition for most.
Rivera wasn’t alone hailing Smith Wednesday, either.
“A fierce competitor,” Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said. “There’s not a lot of guys that you look down a dark alley and you say, ‘I want to bring this person, I want to bring that person.’ Steve Smith is one of those guys that you better make sure that he’s on your team and not against the team because I’ve seen both of them. I would prefer him being on my team.”
Had Gettleman shared that view after the 2013 season, this conversation might be moot. But part of the reason the outspoken Smith was released was so Newton could emerge as the clear leader in the locker room — even though that left Newton without a target he could have certainly used as he developed as a quarterback (and in the Super Bowl last year when his receivers couldn’t get open or catch it when they did).