Could be 'blood & guts' when Smith returns

Steve Smith always has played with a chip on his shoulder, in part because at 5-foot-9 he always felt he had to work a little harder and do a little more than the next guy to prove himself.

Well, the chip just got bigger.

And if the Carolina Panthers, who cut their all-time leading receiver on Thursday, happen to face Smith over the next couple of seasons, there could be hell to pay.

“If that happens to run through Bank of America Stadium, put your goggles on because there's going to be blood and guts everywhere,” Smith told Charlotte radio station WFNZ-AM when talking about his next employer.

Smith has received interest from Baltimore, and Tampa Bay also is expected to be interested.

Knowing Smith might want to be a real thorn in Carolina's side, it wouldn't surprise if he went to NFC South rival Tampa Bay simply for the opportunity to face his former team twice this season.

The Ravens also are on Carolina's 2014 schedule, but only once and as an away game.

With what the Buccaneers are doing in free agency under new coach Lovie Smith, they are bound to be vastly improved over 2013. They got another big piece to the puzzle on Thursday, reaching a deal with Cincinnati tackle Anthony Collins.

The Panthers, by the way, also were in the running for Collins as a replacement for retired left tackle Jordan Gross.

The addition of Smith would only make the Buccaneers better.

Plus there's that chip.

"Maybe somebody woke up a sleeping giant,'' Smith told SiriusXM's Bleacher Report during his post-release radio tour. "My opportunity to play well and play better, and to stay in top shape at my age ... just got a little more fuel to that fire.''