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Panthers receiver Steve Smith says he'll play vs. 49ers

BY Joseph Person
jperson@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/03/13/23/fsU6E.Em.138.gif|90
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  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/29/20/40/K4fUE.Em.138.jpeg|362
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (89) watches his teammates warm up before playing the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on Sunday. Smith, who did not play because of a sprained knee, served at quarterback Cam Newton’s confidante during the game.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/27/15/59/ymOSA.Em.138.jpeg|279
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith is out this week after suffering a knee injury against the New Orleans Saints, but coach Ron Rivera said he wouldn’t bet against Smith for the NFL playoffs.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/23/20/35/1eR8bs.Em.138.jpeg|403
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith walks off the field with a team physician after being injured during first quarter action vs the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Monday, Smith was diagnosed with a sprained knee, and his status is week-to-week.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/22/20/19/1tqJnM.Em.138.jpeg|158
    David T. Foster, III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (89) reaches for his knee after a play in the first half against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium. Smith will have an MRI on Monday. The Panthers won 17-13.

Panthers receiver Steve Smith said it's not a matter of whether he'll play Sunday against San Francisco.

The veteran wideout said he's more concerned with his comfort level with his left knee.

Smith, who sprained his posterior cruciate ligament in the first half against the Saints on Dec. 22, said he would play against the Niners in the divisional-round game at Bank of America Stadium.

"It's not about can I go? It's about how confident do I feel when I am going? I will play Sunday," Smith said. "But it's how much of that I don't worry about the knee. That's when the confidence increases.

"And that's by still doing treatment, still doing things everyday to build that muscle memory, to know where my limit is on how to bend it and all that stuff. And truly, that only can be worked out by pushing it more and more every day."

Smith said he "crushed" his rehab Monday, when he worked out on the side during the Panthers' practice. He ran on a treadmill Sunday, and said he has begun cutting, too.

"Cardio's a little challenging," Smith said. "But the leg is pretty good. Cardio kicked my butt."

Smith said he expects to practice Wednesday. Even at less than 100 percent, Smith will help the Panthers' passing offense, teammates and coaches said.

With Smith sidelined for the Week 17 win at Atlanta, the Panthers' top three receivers combined for four catches for 22 yards. No. 2 receiver Brandon LaFell was targeted five times against the Falcons, but had no receptions.

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