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Let's stop all this talk about the Panthers bringing back Steve Smith

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers don’t need to trade with the Baltimore Ravens to bring back their all-time leading receiver.

They may need another reliable receiver.

But they don’t need Steve Smith.

Michael Smith of ESPN’s His and Hers was adamant on Tuesday’s show that Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman and Baltimore’s GM Ozzie Newsome should get on the phone and work out a deal.

“They need each other,’’ Smith said. “The Ravens need to get some value for him. This needs to happen.’’

No, it doesn’t.

First, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said last week there’s “no chance’’ the Ravens will trade Smith, who said he would quit if traded.

But let’s take that out of the equation and say the Ravens were willing to deal. Why would Carolina?

Nothing really has changed since March of 2014, when Gettleman and the Panthers opted to release Smith, except his age (36) and the addition of Sr. to the back of his jersey.

Smith was released because there were concerns over the course of a long season that productivity might decline. Last season proved that right as Smith had four 100-plus yard receiving games in the first six and none in the final 10. Six times down the stretch, he had fewer than 50 yards.

Smith was released because the Panthers were trying to create a culture in the locker room that didn’t involve outbursts, a divisive force that Smith sometimes displayed.

Smith was released because the Panthers wanted to begin building for the future with younger and less expensive receivers.

Smith was released because the Panthers wanted people to identify this as Cam Newton’s team.

All that remains true.

This wouldn’t even be a conversation if the Panthers hadn’t lost 2014 first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin to a season-ending knee injury during training camp.

This wouldn’t be a conversation if the Ravens weren’t 1-6 and all but given up on as a playoff contender.

But the Panthers are 6-0 despite the absence of a true No. 1 receiver. They’ve found ways to maximize their offense with Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen and a group of receivers that includes Ted Ginn Jr., Philly Brown and Jerricho Cotchery.

Yes, Smith is better than any of them. Yes, Smith’s family still lives in Charlotte. Yes, Smith wants to one day have his name in Carolina’s Hall of Honor.

Most of Smith’s career 13,850 yards and 956 catches came in a Carolina uniform. When he retires after this season, the Panthers should sign him to a one-day contract so he can leave the game with the team that drafted him in 2001.

But if you remember Smith’s parting shot to Gettleman after being released, you’ll see why this wouldn’t work now.

“Yes, it was personal with me and Dave Gettleman,’’ Smith told Charlotte radio station WFNZ at the time. “Obviously, I did something that got under his skin.’’

After Smith ran roughshod (10 catches, 139 yards, two touchdowns) over the Panthers in a win at Baltimore last season, he said, “I just think I was stabbed in the back.’’

He made a reference that Carolina coach Ron Rivera never looked at him “man-to-man’’ to tell him what was happening before the release.

The Panthers can’t risk adding those feelings to the mix of an undefeated team.

It’s easy to understand why some say the Panthers need Smith when you look at their current crop of wide receivers.

But they really don’t.