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Bill Belichick thinks Steve Smith ‘brings a lot of heart and toughness’ to Panthers

11.15.13 at 12:03 pm ET
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Steve Smith is still active and productive in today's NFL. (AP)

Steve Smith is still active and productive in today’s NFL. (AP)

FOXBORO — With all the talk this week about Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly, it’s easy to forget that Steve Smith has seen it all with the Panthers.

He’s seen the very good (Super Bowl XXXVIII appearance, 2005 NFC championship appearance) and the very bad (2009 Rae Carruth murder case, 2008 training camp fight with teammate Ken Lucas.)

Now, this season, the veteran fiery leader of a young and promising team is providing a different kind of boost to the Panthers.

“He’s not returning punts and kickoffs, but he’s very competitive,” Bill Belichick said Thursday. “He’s still a tough guy to handle. He’s very strong for his size. He’s a shorter player but he’s stocky, he’s thick, he has good balance. He’s tough, he’s hard to bring down. He has strong hands, he can see him really reach out there and take the ball aggressively. He has good quickness and run after the catch ability is still good.”

Smith, at 34, is still the Panthers leader in catches (42), yards (450) and tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns (3). Smith has been the perfect veteran security blanket for Newton as he has grown in his first three seasons in the NFL.

“He’s taken some shorter passes and broken some tackles or beaten guys in the open field,” Belichick continued. “He’s a tough guy to handle. His playing strength, his quickness, his speed, his experience – but just his competitiveness. He’s a tough, competitive player. The bigger the situation, the more he wants to be out there and step up and take the shot, so to speak. I have a lot of respect for Steve Smith and I think he’s still very effective in that role for the Panthers. He’s a good player. I think he brings a lot of heart and toughness to their team.”

Assuming he’s healed adequately from his hip injury, Aqib Talib is looking forward to going up against Smith and will likely be matched up against him as he was during his days with the Buccaneers when they played Carolina in the NFC South.

During the 2003 season, Smith played a critical role for the Panther offense and helped lead them to the only NFC title in franchise history. He finished the regular season with 88 catches for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns. During the NFC divisional playoffs, Smith caught a 69-yard pass and ran it for a touchdown in the 2nd overtime period to beat the Rams 29–23. In Super Bowl XXXVIII, he caught 4 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown, and returned a kickoff for 30 yards in the Panthers 32–29 loss to the Patriots.

With 176 games in 13 seasons under his belt, no wide receiver in the NFL has been around longer than Smith. Only Reggie Wayne and Santana Moss have been active as long, with all three coming into the NFL in the 2001 NFL draft.

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