Panthers’ Steve Smith going strong, but drafting replacement might be wise
Steve Smith will turn 34 in May, but the Pro Bowl wide receiver and the Panthers’ longest-tenured player has shown few signs of slowing down. He can still run past and out-muscle defensive backs, spar with them before and after the whistle, and get feisty with reporters when describing the action afterward. Smith has indicated he plans to play a couple more seasons and call it a career. (He’s preparing for that post-football career with semi-regular appearances on WFNZ’s evening drive-time show.) It’s not a bad idea for the Panthers to start thinking about drafting his eventual successor. “That’s one of the things that (general manager) Dave (Gettleman) and I have talked about,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said last week at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. “But as of right now, Steve Smith is still an integral part of what we do and he’ll continue to be that big part for us.” Rivera said one of the traits that has fueled Smith’s success – his intensity – can add wear and tear to his body over the years. Smith is almost always the last player to walk on to the practice fields. But once there, he doesn’t do anything half-speed.
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