|Gone: Steve Smith is cut|
|Panthers receiver released after 13 years|
|Published Thursday, March 13, 2014 11:50 am|
Steve Smith is no longer a Carolina Panther.
The receiver was cut Thursday morning after 13 seasons with the franchise leaving the franchise as its most decorated player and more than 30 career, single-season and single-game records. Smith is the Panthers all-time touchdowns leader with 75 (67 receiving, six returns, two rushing), 836 receptions, 12,197 receiving yards and 43 games with 100 or more receiving yards.
Smith is second in franchise history with 182 games played, 161 games started and 454 points scored.
“Steve Smith has been one of the NFL's finest receivers for over a decade and has been the face of the franchise for a large part of the team’s history,” Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said in a statement. “This was not an easy decision. As a team, we made a step forward last year; however we are also a team in transition, which is a part of the NFL.”
Smith, who has a catch in a team record 106 straight games, was put on notice last month his days in Charlotte were numbered. Gettleman and head coach Ron Rivera were vague about Smith’s future with the team in statements to the media.
“Steve has been an important part of this team since I have been head coach and before my arrival,” Rivera said. “I have coached against him and have had the benefit of having him on the Panthers. He is a great competitor with Hall of Fame worthy statistics and has made a great contribution to our community.”
Smith’s productivity slipped in 2013 when he caught 64 passes for 745 receiving yards with four receiving touchdowns as Carolina went 12-4 and won the NFC South. He became the 29th player in NFL history to catch 800 passes and the 22nd to amass 12,000 receiving yards.
A five-time Pro Bowl pick, Smith is 11th in NFL history for 100-yard receiving games, 19th for receiving yards and 25th for catches. Even as his release became imminent, Panthers fans took to blogs and sports talk radio to offer support and vent their anger at Gettleman, who is in his second season as general manager.
“When I took this position I knew that difficult decisions would have to be made along the way,” Gettleman said. “To move on from a storied veteran player is probably the most difficult of all. A decision not to be taken lightly. However, after much thought I feel very strongly it’s the right one.”
With Smith gone, the Panthers will look to free agency and the draft for a replacement. Among the big names available are former Dallas Cowboy Miles Austin and former New York Giant Hakeem Nicks, who played high school ball at Independence.
“As I’ve stated many times, all decisions I make will be in the long term best interest of the Carolina Panthers,” Gettleman said. “Decisions, either popular or unpopular, have to be made for the greater good and it is imperative to take an unemotional global view.
“Sometimes it may appear that short term interests will suffer, and I can assure you we have no interest in taking a step back from our 2013 accomplishments. Nevertheless, like all NFL teams, we are in transition as we try to get into the best position going forward.”
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