The Panthers severed ties with Fox and went into a different direction in Ron Rivera. And with Rivera came Rod Chudzinski the former San Diego Charger offensive coordinator. And Chudzinski brought with him his vertical passing game that I think has trully intrested Smith.
Couple that with the Panthers drafting Cam Newton someone Smith was already very high on and at least I thought there was a chance Smith may reconsider.
So when it came out Thursday that Smith had changed his mind about wanting out of Carolina, it came as no surprise to me. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Smith had met with Hurney and Rivera and told them he wanted to stay with the Panthers, in his words till he retires.
“For me, I’m always going to be a Panther,” Smith told Schefter. “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.”
Smith said that the reason for his sudden change of heart came down to his family and his children and their well being. But I don’t believe that for one second.
“But we looked at our future here,” Smith continued, “and at the end of the day the decision that was made was made because of my wife and my children. This is where we wanted to be and that’s why I’m here… Whether people have things to say about my contract or if I’ve lost a step it’s valid because I’m getting older – 32 is an age where people think you’re losing a step. And mostly last year I played hurt (with a nagging ankle injury). I looked very slow at times.”
I think Smith’s change of heart is directly linked to Netwon. It seems the two have become very close friends especially after it was found out that the two had been working out together prior to the start of camp.
Also, Newton came and spoke at Smith’s youth football camp last month and was lobbying for the wide receiver to stay even then.
Newton is the kind of guy Smith has always wanted. A big quarterback who can buy Steve time to get open and can get him the ball downfield.
“His athleticism speaks for itself,” Smith said. “You can see an athlete walk in the door. He doesn’t have to wear a sign or a jersey. You can tell if a guy can play or if he can’t.”
Its obvious that Smith never really took a liking to Jimmy Cluasen, calling him out a few times last season and I would say he is secretly rooting for Newton to win the opening day job.
But one thing is for sure is that no matter who is at quarterback, having a happy and focused Steve Smith flanking them out wide could mean big things for the Panthers this season.