Shi Smith still has a big role to play in 2021 despite shoulder injury

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shi Smith
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shi Smith /

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Shi Smith still has a role to play in 2021 despite going down with a shoulder injury in the preseason finale.

There was a collective sigh of relief when head coach Matt Rhule stated in his media availability that Shi Smith’s shoulder injury wasn’t as bad as first feared. The sixth-round pick took a hard fall during the team’s fine preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which ended an impressive offseason for the player in an abrupt fashion.

Smith made a smooth transition to the Carolina Panthers throughout training camp. His fearless approach and consistent catching caught the eye throughout, making him a virtual lock to make the 53-man roster despite the wealth of other weapons available in the wideout room.

Rhule stated that Smith is going to miss time, but “not too much”. He is expected to be out for just a couple of weeks before working his way onto the rotation.

This is arguably the best possible outcome for the player. Certainly, all hope is not lost for Smith.

Even though it’s a blow to his potential chances of making an immediate impression right out of the gate.

Shi Smith made a huge impression with the Carolina Panthers this offseason.

The South Carolina product came into the Panthers with a huge chip on his shoulder after being largely overlooked during the draft. Rhule and company worked with Smith at the 2021 Senior Bowl and were suitably impressed, with the receiver also catching the eye at the Gamecocks’ pro day with the team in attendance.

He’s steadily grown in confidence in recent weeks, coming up with some huge plays in preseason games that only enhanced Smith’s chances of carving out a role for himself.

There is a lot to like about Smith, from his route-running to the player’s attitude. Something that’s drawn comparisons to legendary former Panthers wideout Steve Smith when he first arrived on the team.

Expecting Shi to be Steve is unrealistic, at least initially.

But we’ll find out much more about his resolve as he works his way back from the first injury setback in a professional environment.

Smith’s mindset should ensure there isn’t too much of a problem. He approaches every down right on the edge and won’t back down from any challenge.

These characteristics should serve him well over the next couple of weeks.

The Panthers still have D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Brandon Zylstra, and second-round pick Terrace Marshall Jr. at receiver. Christian McCaffrey’s reliability out of the backfield is also renowned and Carolina also has more of a pass-catching presence at tight end this season if Dan Arnold and Tommy Tremble make the impact expected.

This means there isn’t too much pressure on Smith to work his way back quickly. Although the player will be desperate to do so.

Providing the player comes back at full strength, then he could still emerge as a key part of the game plan. Smith’s production returning kicks is also something that cannot be ignored.

Smith was one of the preseason’s real stars. Further highlighting the strength Carolina possesses at wide receiver despite letting Curtis Samuel walk in free agency for the Washington Football Team.

Bumps in the road and injuries happen. That’s all part of the NFL’s violent nature.

Must Read. Carolina Panthers final 53-man roster projection for 2021 season. light

Smith will react well to adversity. So don’t be surprised if he still manages to make his presence felt once the green light is given to return.