Steve Smith has all the respect in the world for the Carolina Panthers, with whom he spent 13 NFL seasons. So even though he now plays for the Baltimore Ravens, the All-Pro wide receiver knows which franchise he’ll most identify with when it’s all said and done.
“When that time comes, I’ll be able to walk back in those doors and retire as a Panther and have the respect and not have such a split and not allow the few individuals in their temporary residence there to alter a decade of what I’ve done and experienced in that great organization,” Smith told ESPN.com’s Ashley Fox.
“I was there 13 years, and the way I look at it and what I was told, I’ll be there a lot longer than they will.”
Smith and the Ravens take on his old team Sunday in about as intriguing a matchup as an inter-conference game can get. Both teams are 2-1, although Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is still trying to find another go-to target without Smith, who has 18 receptions for 290 yards and a touchdown through three games.
The reason Smith still considers himself a Panther, despite hard feelings toward coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman, is because of a closed-door meeting he says he had with owner Jerry Richardson after he was cut. While Smith was vague about the content of the conversation, he did suggest to ESPN that he felt he was ultimately appreciated by the organization and its fans, despite a fiery personality that occasionally led to confrontations with his own teammates.
Because conflict sells, though, Smith is aware the pregame storyline will be a lot more spicy if he harbors ill will toward his former team. As he told reporters in a recent conference call, “Y’all are going to make something up anyway, so what’s the sense?”
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