The video board in Bank of America Stadium informed those in attendance Sunday that Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith’s 19-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter was his 800th career reception.
Cam Newton tried to lift up his arm, as if the quarterback was a boxing referee and Smith was the prize-winning fighter, but he was in no mood to celebrate.
He snatched his hand away and continued shouting expletives across the field.
Smith, the most tenured Panther on the roster, had been in a verbal sparing match with second-year Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins for most of Carolina’s 30-15 victory, and he pointed at Jenkins before doing a celebration dance to let him know he was beaten.
“When you embarrass people you rub it in their face,” Smith said.
He said Jenkins had said derogatory things about his wife during the game, and said Jenkins apparently used “the Internet and Google” for “the first time ever” to make personal attacks on Smith.
Then, on first-and-10 from the St. Louis 19 with 27 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Smith lined up in the slot. He crossed to the right side of the field, where Newton found him and he made Jenkins miss, then safety Matt Giordano miss before getting into the end zone.
Smith then pointed at Jenkins and began doing former NFL cornerback Deion Sanders’ celebration. He paused, then did former NFL linebacker Ray Lewis’ celebration before going back to the sideline.
“Well he thinks he’s Deion (Sanders),” said Smith, who added if he saw Jenkins outside of a football stadium he would punch him in the face. “He’s not. He’s just another notch on the bedpost. That’s 800. He ain’t no different.”
Smith finished with five receptions for 69 yards, one drop and the touchdown against Jenkins. He was a half-yard shy of getting another score that was ruled just short of the goal line on a 12-yard pass by Newton and a failed challenge by Panthers coach Ron Rivera.
Rivera said after the game that challenging the call was essential to the team’s momentum and the energy in the stadium, but also for Smith.
“He plays hard, he plays this game like his hair’s on fire and that’s what we expect out of him, and that sparks us,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “He made some great plays. He’s been doing it for seems like 100 years now, and that’s what makes him so special.”
After his expletive-laced rant on Jenkins, Smith was one of the last Panthers in the locker room. Four children stood near his locker asking for an autograph, and he signed for each one.
For one, Smith bent over and signed his name at the top of the 9 on the boy’s No.89 jersey.
Then he noticed the kid had his belt draped across his shoulders.
“Put your belt on,” a calm Smith told him before exiting the locker room.