Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith at least was able to breathe this week.
After going through another full practice Monday, Smith said his conditioning is much better than the week before, and he remains positive he’ll be ready for the regular-season opener at the New York Giants on Sept. 12.
“Have not diverted from the path at hand, which is Week 1 in New York,” Smith said. “And that’s been the focal point, and that’s kind of where it’s going to start.”
The broken left arm no longer is a problem, and will be protected. Now it’s finding his wind.
“This Monday, cardio-wise is a lot better than last Monday, significantly,” he said. “That’s a relief mentally for me. That’s a little bit more reps I can go before coming out cardio-wise, so that was good.
“Last week I was hurting, my lungs were hurting, chest was burning. It was like the last thousand meters” of a marathon.
It’s extremely unlikely he’ll play during Thursday’s preseason finale at Pittsburgh – coach John Fox has held all starters out during recent years – but Smith said he gave brief consideration to playing Saturday against Tennessee.
“I did want to play Saturday,” he said. “I know mentally I was not prepared, physically I wasn’t prepared. That was a battle within itself. Had to set my mind Wednesday that I’m not playing, I can’t play. Just to get that out of my head and out of me.
“Even Saturday when I was driving up I was like, ‘Maybe I could.’ I just let it go and moved on.”
Roster to drop by 5 today
The Panthers have to reduce their roster by five today, but two of the moves seem simple.
They can put linebacker Thomas Davis on the reserve-physically unable to perform list, which was the plan all along.
While coming back from two torn ACLs within eight months is still considered a long shot, Davis is rehabbing like a man intent on coming back this year.
Under the rules of the reserve-PUP list, Davis will be ineligible for the first six weeks of the season. After that, the Panthers have three weeks for him to begin practicing or he’d have to be placed on injured reserve.
The Panthers also could clear a spot by waiving injured defensive end Hilee Taylor, who had an arthroscopic procedure on his knee and wasn’t going to make the 53-man roster anyway.
The Panthers signed offensive lineman Tim Duckworth, filling the slot left open last week when waiver-claim tackle Kirk Barton decided not to show.
Duckworth was undrafted out of Auburn, but he has been in camp or on the practice squad with Denver, Philadelphia and New Orleans. He was waived by the Saints last week. Duckworth, 6-foot-4, 318 pounds, gives the Panthers another body to get through Thursday’s game.
The Panthers were down a few bodies in practice Monday.
Receivers Wallace Wright (shoulder) and Trent Guy (hamstring) were held out, along with defensive ends Tyler Brayton (ankle) and Taylor, cornerbacks Richard Marshall (knee), C.J. Wilson (concussion) and Captain Munnerlyn (calf), safety Aaron Francisco (hamstring), fullback Rashawn Jackson (foot) and running back Tyrell Sutton (shoulder).
Fox offered no clarifications on the injured players’ status.