The Carolina Panthers sent a scout to Clemson on Thursday for the Tigers’ pro day, which featured a pair of wide receiver prospects in Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant.
There was another member of the Panthers organization at Clemson’s indoor facility: Veteran receiver Steve Smith worked with former Panthers wideout Keyshawn Johnson as an analyst for ESPN, another odd chapter in what has been a disconcerting offseason for the franchise’s all-time leading receiving leader.
After the workout, Smith talked with ESPN reporter Josina Anderson about his uncertain future with the Panthers.
Smith shed little light on his meeting Tuesday with general manager Dave Gettleman, whose vague remarks about Smith at the scouting combine last month were the first public sign Smith might not have a roster spot with the Panthers in 2014.
“Like every offseason they’re making moves and making decisions that are going to be, moving forward, for the betterment of the team,” Smith told ESPN. “Those decisions and those conversations, I don’t know all of them. I’m not in the meeting rooms. But we talked about some things. And what we talked about it is what we talked about.”
If Gettleman told Smith the Panthers will be moving on without him, Smith didn’t share that with ESPN’s Anderson.
“Here’s all I have to say about it,” Smith said. “I am working out and doing all the things as (if) I am a Carolina Panther. That’s where I am. And I’ll continue to move forward until I am told otherwise.”
Smith reiterated his disappointment in having to hear second-hand Gettleman’s combine comments about Smith being “part of the evaluation process.”
Smith, who will turn 35 in May, is the second-longest tenured player in Panthers history behind former kicker John Kasay. He told the Observer last week he wants to play in 2014, and said Thursday he believes his future is “bright.”
Smith’s production fell off last season, when his 64 catches were his third-lowest during a full season. His 745 receiving yards were his second fewest, behind his 554-yard total in 2010.
Smith is set to make $4 million this season, with $3 million guaranteed. Because there is no offset language in Smith’s contract, he could collect the $3 million from the Panthers if he is released, in addition to whatever amount another team is willing to pay him.
Smith remains one of the Panthers’ most popular players among the fan base, and has built a strong relationship with owner Jerry Richardson.
But coming off its first playoff berth in five years, the team has been sending out a message throughout the offseason that the status quo is not good enough for a franchise that has never had back-to-back winning seasons.
“It’s a business, and I understand that, and ultimately decisions aren’t up to me,” Smith told ESPN. “I’m a player. At the end of the day, if a team decides to move on, I have to either accept that or I go sit at home and cry about it. So we’ll see.”