Steve Smith showed up as scheduled at training camp in Spartanburg today, one day after the news broke that he had decided he wanted to play for the Panthers and not try to force a trade.
Smith was in a reflective mood, saying he had been an "ass" and acted immaturely too often in his career with the Panthers. That career has included four Pro Bowls and 60 touchdowns (most in team history). But it also has included Smith striking two teammates at separate times in his career and several other temperamental outbursts.
"You have to admit that pretty much that I made an ass out of myself for a long time here by letting my emotions get the best of me," Smith said Friday in front of the players' dorm at Wofford College. (My column on Smith in today's newspaper can be found here).
Smith said he and rookie quarterback Cam Newton have been working out privately with each other as recently as a week ago. Why Newton and not Jimmy Clausen?
Smith said because Clausen has been on the West Coast, where he's from, most of the time. But it's obvious that Smith and Newton have already become buddies -- they were texting each other Friday until Smith said he had to put up his phone because he wasn't going to text while driving to Spartanburg.
Smith reiterated Friday that his decision to stay was a "family-first" decision and that it wasn't about money.
"It wasn't because I was going to be released or contract stuff," said Smith, who has two years and $14.75 million left on his deal. "I never asked for any money or an extension or wanted any money. You know last year was frustrating for everyone and at times -- I'd say 95 percent of the time -- I didn't handle it very well.
"I wasn't responsible in handling it. And you know I take full responsibility and blame for that.... I never demanded a trade. But we looked at our future here and at the end of the day the decision that was made was made because of my wife and my children. This is where we wanted to be and that's why I'm here -- I'm here to play football.
"Whether people have things to say about my contract or if I've lost a step it's valid because I'm getting older -- 32 is an age where people think you're losing a step. And mostly last year I played hurt (with a nagging ankle injury). I looked very slow at times."
Smith said he felt healthy now and wanted to "see if I can get this old body up and running." He also said he was very happy the Panthers had traded with Chicago for tight end Greg Olsen.
"I'm excited about Greg," he said. "I wanted Greg five years ago [when Olsen was about to get drafted].... I thought he was a fantastic player. So I'm excited to play next to Greg because he can play. He can move pretty good for a tight end. I think if he lost a little weight he could probably be an outstanding wide receiver."
More to come on Smith in my column for Saturday's newspaper and online.
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