- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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"Steve said if I had to, I'd play," coach Ron Rivera said on Friday. "He probably couldn't, but he'd try."
It won't be left up to Smith (knee).
Rivera ruled the team's all-time leading receiver out for the 1 p.m. ET game, that with a victory gives Carolina (11-4) the NFC South championship and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Of the three, Rivera said Smith likely would be available for a first-round playoff game if the Panthers lost to Atlanta and had to play next week as a wild-card team.
"Believe me, don't bet against him," Rivera said.
Quarterback Cam Newton remained on the injury report as a full participant in practice with an ankle injury. Rivera does not expect the ankle to be a factor in the team's game plan when it comes to running Newton.
"We are going to do what we have to win this football game," he said. "We're going to be smart about it, but we've got to put ourselves in position to win."
Asked if he would rest key starters such as Newton if the game becomes a blowout, Rivera said, "We'll get to that when we cross that [bridge]."