That act alone could be challenged as a violation of Smith’s contract. There’s no specific language in there saying he can’t play flag football, but there are some words about participating in activities that could be physically dangerous. A team official said the Panthers have no plans to pursue the issue.
Their thinking is simple: The damage is done and it’s not all that bad. Smith won’t be ready for the start of training camp, but he should be ready for the start of the regular season. Other than roster bonuses and things like that, players are paid over the course of the 17-week (the bye is included) season.
The Panthers don’t think there’s much sense in docking Smith’s pay and they’re not going to fine him. Unlike some other Smith incidents, he's the only one who got hurt this time. He’s expressed sorrow about the incident and the team just wants to move on. Besides, it’s probably safest not to tick off the mercurial wide receiver.
At some point in the preseason, Smith will return. He’ll talk to the media about how he’s matured and he’ll go out and be one of the best receivers in the NFL.
If all that sounds familiar, it should. We’ve seen this act before -- plenty of times. There are at least three documented incidents of Smith having physical encounters with teammates and there was that time he kicked a defender in Houston. In each of those cases, he’s faced discipline.
In this case, the Panthers don’t think the action was as bad as the other times and they’re probably right. Every time he’s slipped up in the past, Smith has been apologetic and talked of how he’s matured by learning from his mistakes. That’s all genuine. Smith tries really hard to toe the line and, at times, he can be charming.
That and the fact that Smith is an exceptional talent is why the Panthers have kept him around even though there are people that work for the Panthers that are afraid to even talk to the wide receiver.
The annual Smith talks about maturity make a lot of sense and he says all the right things. But Smith is 31 now. He shouldn’t have to keep giving the same old spiel. But, once again, he’s put himself in position for it.