Tom Sorensen caught up with Steve Smith at a charity kickball game Saturday afternoon. The wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers was asked about his future with the team but did not have much to say.
Smith"I'm going to stick with what I've been saying since the beginning," Smith said. "It's a private matter. It'll be between me and my family when we make the decision."
The decision Smith talked about is whether or not he wants to stay with the Panthers. There have been previous reports that he cleaned out his locker and the suite his family sits in for games and asked the Panthers for a trade before the lockout.
Carolina officials haven’t denied the part about Smith asking for a trade. Previously, a high-ranking Carolina official said Smith was told after last season to sit down, think about his future and decide if he wants to continue playing with the team he’s spent his entire career with.
"When the decision is made people will have their opinions about it,’’ Smith said. “But I love Charlotte. I've enjoyed playing here. And the reason I say that is because we're not allowed to play right now. We've been locked out. So unfortunately that's the way you've got to talk about it. I just don't see the point of talking about things that you can't even do right now."
Smith’s right. The Panthers can’t even begin talks about a trade with other teams until the lockout is lifted. The Panthers are intent on not simply giving Smith away. They want a decent draft pick or picks in return.
But, if the reports that he’s already asked to be traded are true, I think the Panthers will make this happen. Owner Jerry Richardson was largely out of pocket for about two years with health issues that included a heart transplant. During that time, Richardson felt Smith walked all over former coach Jon Fox. He also believes Fox let Smith walk all over him – and the rest of the organization. Richardson has some deep regrets he wasn’t available to take a hard-line stance with Smith.
He doesn’t want new coach Ron Rivera to have to handle the headaches that come with Smith’s enormous talent. I think the Panthers will be ready to shop Smith as soon as the lockout ends.