Smith isn't mad, but questions remain


Steve Smith's Friday afternoon conference call introducing himself as the newest member of the Baltimore Ravens was cut short because a local television station apparently had its phone line tied into its newscast.

But through the background noise that made it almost impossible to hear, one thing was clear -- Smith doesn't hold a grudge against the Carolina Panthers for releasing him after 13 seasons.

Carolina's all-time leading receiver even took back his "blood and guts" quote from a Charlotte radio interview Thursday in which he was asked what it would be like when he faced the Panthers for the first time.

Baltimore, by the way, hosts Carolina in 2014.

"It was more tongue and cheek," Smith said of his comment. "I can't be upset with the organization that gave me everything."

What also could be heard over the noise was the Ravens want Smith to be himself. That was said consistently to Smith throughout the recruitment process that began within minutes of Carolina releasing him Thursday.

The Ravens saw in Smith what the Panthers apparently couldn't anymore -- still one of the top competitors in the NFL, a player still capable of making an impact and one capable of being a leader.

What we haven't heard through the silence at Carolina's Bank of America Stadium is why the Panthers felt Smith, 35, couldn't be all these things.

The organization felt so strong that Smith couldn't that they're paying him $5 million to play for another team -- on top of the 3-year, $11.5 million deal Smith got from Baltimore.

General manager Dave Gettleman still hasn't come out and said why he didn't believe Smith could be a leader, why he possibly couldn't get along with others in an environment where he had been since Carolina selected him in the third round of the 2001 draft.

We also haven't heard from quarterback Cam Newton. I'm curious what he has to say now that he's left without his top four wide receivers from last season. No. 2 Brandon LaFell is testing the market, No. 3 Ted Ginn Jr. signed with Arizona and No. 4 Domenik Hixon signed with Chicago.

My guess, because he hasn't spoke up, is Newton's OK with it because he doesn't have to answer to Smith anymore.

Yeah, Smith challenged the first pick of the 2011 draft at times, but that's what veterans are supposed to do -- help young players mature.

The Ravens weren't alone in believing Smith still can be an asset. San Diego had an offer on the table. New England had scheduled a visit. Washington and Seattle showed interest.

Yet the Panthers dumped him.

As Gettleman likes to say, we don't always know the reasons things happen until two or three years down the road -- if ever.