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Steve Smith Staying Helps Keep Charlotte Classy

By Chris Johnson
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Less than two weeks ago Steve Smith announced that he no longer wanted to be traded from the Carolina Panthers.  He was even quoted as saying, “I’m always going to be a Panther.”  To me this seemed like a far cry from cleaning out his locker before the lockout started.  Losing Smith would have been a huge blow; not only is he one of our most talented players, he is one of the emotional leaders of the squad.

I can’t help but wonder what brought on the seemingly sudden change of heart.  Perhaps it’s the new coaching staff? Smith seems to be happier under Rivera and the new coaching regime.  He was telling reporters after Saturday’s Fan Fest that he feels more utilized under offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. Smith told the Charlotte Observer, “I get to line up in different spots. It’s just refreshing. It’s not saying, ‘Well, we’re going to move you around,’ and then never do it. Here they’re actually saying it and it’s happening.” Last year he had one of his worst years statistically.  To be fair, it wasn’t just him: the Panthers as a team had a dismal season all around offensively, and they scored their lowest point total in franchise history.

Steve Smith also seems to be excited about the addition of Cam Newton.  They had workouts together in the offseason, even during the time the rumors of Smith wanting to be traded were swirling.  After struggling with Jimmy Clausen under center last year, he seems almost rejuvenated with Newton.  Newton is not the only addition I feel helps 89 on the field.  Tight-ends Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey, along with wide receiver Legedu Naanee, have added more weapons to the offensive side of the ball.  Teams won’t be able to just lock in on Smith.

Maybe the reason to stay was just a personal one?  Steve Smith has been here for ten seasons, and he has seen highs and lows on this Panther team.  He is the only receiver left from the Super Bowl run in 2003. On his return to Carolina, he said, “They took a shot on me when I was coming from nowhere and now I’m going into my 11th year in the league. This will be where I retire, whether that’s five years from now or one year from now.”

What seemed like Smiths almost eminent departure in the off-season was that of something out the movies.  For example in Anchorman, Ron Burgundy was the heart of the San Diego’s nightly news everybody loved him.  Things started going badly for him and he left to roam the streets with a full beard drinking milk (it was a poor choice).  The newscast suffered and so did he until the end when shows up at the zoo to save himself and the newscast.  See the newscast need him just as much as he needed them.  Now I don’t believe Steve Smith was wandering the streets of Charlotte chugging 2%, but I think he realized that he needs the Panthers just as we need him.

Whatever the reason for staying is, maybe all of the above, he will be important to the success the Panthers may have heading into this season.  Teammates and fans are thrilled to have Smitty back.  He is a true competitor, a warrior on the field.  I can’t even imagine seeing him in any other uniform.  Thankfully I won’t have to.  I am sure I am not the first one to say this, and hopefully not the last, but thank you for staying, Steve. And stay classy Charlotte.

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