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New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. Sunday, FOX

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Panthers’ Steve Smith, jokingly, on status for Sunday: ‘I’m out’

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith had a bandage on his middle finger and a tongue-in-cheek response when asked about his status for Sunday’s NFC South showdown with New Orleans.

“I think I’m out,” Smith said jokingly. “I’m out for Sunday.”

Smith, 34, hasn’t missed a game in three seasons and is expected to play against the Saints, even if he decided to have some fun with reporters Thursday.

Smith missed practice Thursday, a day after a tipped Cam Newton pass hit the tip of the middle finger on Smith’s left hand and dislocated the finger. The injury occurred near the end of Wednesday’s practice.

Smith, who had the finger bandaged Thursday, isn’t sure what trainers will do in terms of splinting or bandaging it for Sunday’s game.

“I don’t know exactly what the situation is. I’m just trying to make it through ... 24 hours after,” Smith said. “Take one out of Bill Belichick’s (book), I’m day-to-day.”

But Panthers coach Ron Rivera expects Smith to practice Friday and play against the Saints.

“They just popped it back in and had it bandaged up, so he should be fine. They wanted to let it calm down. They didn’t want to irritate it any more than it needed to be,” Rivera said. “I expect him to come out (Friday) run around, catch the ball and be ready to roll.”

Smith, tied with tight end Greg Olsen for the team lead with 63 receptions, hasn’t missed a game since a calf strain kept him out of the 2010 finale at Atlanta. Smith, the second-longest tenured player in team history, said he doesn’t need to remind any of the younger players the importance of Sunday’s game.

“As far as must-win, this is it. If this the playoffs, this is the playoffs. You win, you move on. You lose, and early vacation,” Smith said.

The Panthers (10-4) could still make the playoffs with a loss to the Saints (10-4), but Carolina’s hopes of winning the division and earning a first-round bye in the playoffs would be gone.

“I think this game is very important. The value to this game is what it is, which is you have to be on your Ps-and-Qs,” Smith said. “Mistakes have to be minimal. We’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity we have.”

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