Steve Smith Sr. and Cam Newton arguably are the two best players the Carolina Panthers organization has ever seen.
There is Smith, who accumulated a franchise-high 12,197 receiving yards in his 13 seasons with the team, which might get him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2022.
Then, there’a Newton, who led the Panthers to a 15-1 record and the Super Bowl in 2015 — the same year in which the quarterback was named the NFL MVP.
But though the players overlapped in three seasons of their careers with the Panthers, they never became close.
In an interview with Kyle Brandt of the Ringer’s “10 Questions,” Smith gave some insight as to why.
“People don’t want to hear this, but I think I was 33 years old,” Smith said. “When you’re 33 years old — or 10 years older than your teammate — there’s gonna be a disconnect because we’re obviously looking at things totally different. I had three children at the time, he had zero. I was on the downward spiral for my career, he was just starting his career. So, I think there’s obvious things, but people want to put us against each other like ‘Oh, we didn’t get along because of this.’ It had nothing to do with not getting along, but it’s like that Instagram picture where everyone says ‘What color is this dress?’ And depending on how you see things, you can argue over the color, and people do that.
“So, it’s just, it was a 10-year age gap, and I was at a different place. I guess it’s more of a slight on me. What does a 33-year-old man with three kids have in common with a 23-year-old young man? I hope they are not intellectually and maturity-wise on the same level, right? And that’s not a knock on anybody, I’m just trying to explain it in a way that people get it without people trying to assume that ‘Oh, Steve hates him.’ Listen, when I wake up in the morning, I don’t go ‘Oh, what did Cam Newton do or not do?’ I look at football the same way everybody else does — I try to let the game draw it’s own conclusions.”
It’s been quite a few years since Smith and Newton have been teammates, however, with Newton now around the same age that Smith was when the quarterback came into the league.
“I also don’t know the Cam Newton that’s playing for the New England Patriots because I haven’t been around him in a long period of time at 31 years old (Newton’s age) to really say ‘Man, this is why I believe he’s playing well.'” Smith said. “Our paths haven’t crossed in the business world.”