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Thursday, September 5, 2013
Outspoken Smith takes getting used to

By David Newton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Wide receiver Steve Smith was guarded, in some ways media shy, on my first go-around covering the Carolina Panthers, which ended in 2005.

On Thursday, while I talked softly to another reporter inside the Carolina locker room, Smith interrupted. He suspected, and rightfully so, that we were discussing whether the 13-year veteran wanted to further address his pointed comments about former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.

And he was willing to talk further about it.

Steve Smith
Steve Smith has been openly critical of former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
Yes, Smith has opened up quite a bit the past eight years.

In case you missed what he told reporters in Seattle on Wednesday about Chudzinski when asked how much of a load quarterback Cam Newton took last year and how he handled it, Smith pretty much called the new Cleveland Browns head coach part of the problem.

“I think it was a really a power move of the prior offensive coordinator really positioning himself to kind of show, ‘Hey! I’m capable,' '' Smith said. "I really believe that he was applying for that head coaching job.

"Our offense kind of suffered a little bit because of that. At times, we got cute and we did things that necessarily weren’t us, the un-utilizing of [fullback] Mike Tolbert . . . just a lot of different things.''

Smith was just as adamant about that on Thursday. He went places none of his teammates or coach Ron Rivera were willing to. Not to say Smith doesn't care what people think about what he says. But he really doesn't.

"I'm not retracing my steps,'' Smith said. "I believe we got cute at times like I said we did.''

He mentioned specifically the Chicago game, a 23-22 loss in which Carolina passed out of the shotgun on consecutive plays from the Bears' 4-yard line.

"We have nice stout backs in there,'' said Smith, suggesting Carolina should have pounded the ball in. "I'm not making it up. It's not personal. It's business. It's a fact.''

The Panthers plan to run more out of a traditional set with new offensive coordinator Mike Shula when they open the season on Sunday against Seattle, so Smith may get his wish.

But nobody else I talked to chose to put the blame for last year's offensive woes on Chudzinski.

Said left tackle Jordan Gross: "Here's what I'll say about Chud. He started doing things in 2011 that a lot of teams did in 2012 and had success with it. I'm glad he's a head coach and, obviously, the Browns think he can be a head coach. It doesn't really even matter to be honest with you.''

Said running back DeAngelo Williams: "My thoughts on Chud is he's in Cleveland and I'm going to keep him in Cleveland. He's somebody else's problem or solution.''

Said Rivera: "He did a nice job [here], things finished very well and now he's in Cleveland and he's their head coach. I will deal with that question next season when we play Cleveland.''

So now Smith is the outspoken one and everyone else is the diplomatic one -- except when I asked what he thought of the offense now that the "cuteness'' is gone.

"At the end of the day, we'll see after Sunday,'' Smith said. "It doesn't matter what I say today. It doesn't matter what I say tomorrow or the offseason. It's all going to come to a head on Sunday.

"We're either going to execute or we're not, point blank. And [you're] either going to use my words against me or everybody will talk over it and act like I never said it and keep going about their business.''

Stay tuned.