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Rivera: Steve Smith a Panther -- for now

New Carolina coach Ron Rivera has seemed to be a lot more forthcoming than predecessor John Fox so far. That continued Thursday morning as Rivera spoke to the media for about 45 minutes. That’s about 43 minutes more than most Fox meetings with the media in his Carolina days.

Rivera didn’t disappoint as he continued to admit nothing is a given when it comes to the future of veteran receiver Steve Smith.

“Steve is a Carolina Panther,” Rivera said. “Let us put it all together and see if it works first.”

That’s a good and honest answer at this point. Smith has been told to ponder his future and let the team know if he wants out. If he does, the team may consider trading him. But there also are some in the organization that want to keep Smith, who remains under contract through 2012.

But the Panthers really can’t do anything with Smith until the labor situation is settled. There are no indications Smith has told the team he wants out and he’s probably wise to see how several situations sort out. The labor situation is most significant. But Smith also might want to wait to see what the Panthers do at quarterback before making any major decisions.

The Panthers may consider Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert in the draft. But there also could be several veteran quarterbacks (Donovan McNabb, Carson Palmer, Kevin Kolb and Vince Young) available either through the draft or free agency.

Like Rivera said, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to make any decisions on Smith until the Panthers have other parts in place and know where the receiver might fit.