It was just about seven or eight months ago when Steve Smith was coming off the second worst season of his NFL career and looked like his best days were a thing of the past. He was labeled a thug, a locker room cancer, a distraction for the team, and someone who dropped too many passes. It turns out that Smith’s main issue a year ago in Carolina was that he didn’t have a quarterback that could get him the football. With a new mindset and Cam Newton under center, Smith has been rejuvenated in Carolina and has shown that he has plenty left in his tank. Through eight games, Smith already has as many catches as he did last season, he has two more touchdowns, and he leads the NFL in receiving yards. Obviously it’s the wins that matter for Smith and the Panthers and they’re coming off a brutal loss against the Minnesota Vikings, but as long as Smith and Newton stay in Carolina, the future looks bright for the Panthers and the wins will come.
Steve Smith joined WFNZ in Charlotte with the Mac Attack to talk about how difficult the loss was this past weekend against Minnesota, why the team has struggled so much to finish games, why it seems like he is so much happier this year, on the criticism that Olindo Mare is getting for missing the field goal against the Vikings, and how much longer he wants to play in the NFL.
How tough the loss was this past weekend:
“Yeah it was difficult for everybody. Inside the locker room a lot of guys were sad, disappointed, kinda frustrated, but that’s the National Football League. One day you’re up, the next day you’re down.”
Why the team has struggled to finish games:
“The facts are the little things hurt you whether it’s at the end or the beginning. It just adds up. I think a lot of times we try to hand pick besides the glaring things, try to hand pick and say well if this wouldn’t have happened. On my hold, you don’t go in there and say I’m gonna hold this guy. You just react. I’ve played this game for about eight weeks now and I’ve held a lot worse. I’ve grabbed a jersey, I’ve been grabbed, we were in the game yesterday when Jerome Felton caught the ball and (Asher) Allen grabbed my jersey on a deep corner route and I said ‘ref that’s holding.’ He said ‘yeah that’s close.’ He looked me in the eye and said it was close. My jersey is double-taped to my shoulder pads to keep the holding down. So when they grab you can see shoulder pad. In this game guys hold, guys grab, snag, tug, and that’s the game. Am I trying to make an excuse? No, but I didn’t go in there and say ‘hey I’m gonna really hold this guy.’ When he came in there he kinda gave me a move and I was trying to keep my hands out, kinda like let me get in your way and he called holding.”
On his renewed enthusiasm this season:
“A lot of people, I know people say his stats are up so he seems like it’s better. It has nothing to do with statistics. It has to do with the whole surroundings. You go in there and the offensive playbook has five or six hundred plays. Then also too, the players in there and it’s a whole different attitude. When it’s a whole different attitude it’s better.”
On the criticism that Olindo Mare has received after missing the field goal against Minnesota:
“Every day it’s somebody different whatever team you’re on. Understandable. The fact is he makes that kick and we go into overtime and possibly win or lose. But we also win or lose as a team. He was upset with himself but there’s not too many kickers out there that, if they go through the whole year 20 for 20 or 50 for 50. During the week I’d love to be a kicker, on Sundays I don’t want to be a kicker. It’s pressure. Everything has to be done quickly and to say he has no depth, you gotta go back to last week. Three kicks and they go pushed back. He kicked it and made it. A lot of guys would’ve choked, a lot of guys woulda messed up. He’s been playing for 15 years. He hasn’t been playing just because he has a few pictures of somebody.”
Whether or not he ever thinks about what could’ve been for him with a better QB situation:
“I think one of the things, when I line up on Sunday, which I love, bro I’m 32-years-old and I’m supposed to be done. I’m already 5-9, angry guy, chip on my shoulder, past his prime, but I’m out here having fun, living out my dream, and play and be around a bunch of guys. When I get in the huddle one of the best things I can do is look at Jordan (Gross) who I played college ball with, look at (Ryan) Kalil, look at Travelle (Wharton), and those guys look at me and say ‘Smitty we need a play from you.’ I look at them and go that’s cool and go out there and try to make a play for them.”
How much longer he plans on playing for:
“I wanted to get past the football statistics of 3.5 so I’ve exceeded that. I want to play as long as I get the opportunity to play. If that’s four more years then that’s four more years.”