In seven of nine NFL seasons, Steve Smith has been the Panthers’ leading wide receiver. For the first time since his second year, however, the team is without quarterback Jake Delhomme. At Carolina’s recent minicamp, Smith talked to Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer and other reporters about changes in the receiving corps, his role as a veteran leader and his first impressions of the team’s 2010 rookies.
Q: What are your initial impressions of the team having two rookie quarterbacks, Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike, to compete with incumbent Matt Moore for the starting job?
Steve Smith: (At first) I really haven’t been focusing on how they’re doing. I’m just trying to get on the same page with Matt and going with some of the new things the new wide receivers coach has going on. I’ve got quite a bit on my plate as with the new coach I’ve got to focus on a little bit that currently hasn’t give me a lot of time to watch the younger guys. Hopefully, once I get familiar with the new techniques, I’ll start looking at those guys, go in there and watch film (with the rookie QBs).
Q: What do you expect out of the Panthers’ receivers without Muhsin Muhammad?
SS: Obviously, (there’s) a new starter (Dwayne Jarrett), two new young guys (Brandon LaFell, Armanti Edwards). There are 11 of us (in camp), so that’s a lot. I think change could be good. Time will tell.
Q: What did you say to Edwards and the other rookie receivers?
SS: First day, you really don’t say anything to them. You kind of let them settle down a little bit. I can imagine what they’re going through—the excitement, the anxiety. … There are a lot of things going on in their mind.
Q: What’s your role in filling the void in the offense after losing veteran leaders such as QB Jake Delhomme, wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad and fullback Brad Hoover?
SS: We’ve got a lot of young guys in there, and I guess to be a mentor all you have to do is be a few steps ahead.
Q: What’s your assessment of this receiving corps?
SS: You want to say, "We’re going to be the best bunch of guys," but I think just allowing those guys to really just be themselves right now I think is the best bet.
Q: What do you think of your new wide receivers coach, Tyke Tolbert?
SS: I have a great amount respect for (former) coach (Richard) Williamson. He’s been my coach for a very long time. At the same time, I’m learning quite a bit from Tyke. He’s doing things a bit differently. … I think in all, it will be a good fit. I’ve talked to some people he’s coached (Anquan Boldin, Terrell Owens), and they had nothing but high praise to say about him.
Q: What are the challenges for Edwards, going from college quarterback to NFL wide receiver?
SS: From a quarterback to a wideout, it may not be as hard as people think. The quarterback has the responsibility to know where everyone is on the field. So now, for him, he only needs to focus on being a wideout, so he doesn’t have as many tasks as a wide receiver that a quarterback generally has. I don’t think it will be that much harder or a huge task. It’s just getting the lingo together, coming from that spread offense up at Appalachian State. I think he’ll do pretty well.
Q: What were you first thoughts about Edwards’ speed?
SS: I think out of all the wide receivers that we’ve got, I think we have some guys with pretty good speed. As far as all the new guys, they’re pretty quick. I’m not saying these other guys aren’t as fast, but these new guys coming in they can burn a little bit.