Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman dodged questions Tuesday about whether he would sign off on bringing franchise receiving leader Steve Smith back on a one-day contract so he could retire as a Panther.
“That is way above my pay grade. Way above,” Gettleman said. “Next.”
I wrote about this last week when Smith announced he was “89 percent” sure he was retiring, then made it official following the Ravens’ game at Cincinnati.
So I’m not going to rehash all the bad blood that was spilled when Gettleman unceremoniously cut Smith after the 2013 season. Words like backstabbing were used, and Panthers coach Ron Rivera was not spared, either.
Even so, Rivera said last week Smith should retire as a Panther.
“That’s up to Steve. I think he should, though,” Rivera said. “Think of all the years he’s played here. But it’s up to him. He’ll decide what he wants to do and he’s earned the right.”
Smith played 13 years in Carolina and left with all of the team’s receiving records. He remains wildly popular among Panthers fans, and still lives in Charlotte with his family.
Ultimately this decision on if or when to honor Smith will be made by him and Jerry Richardson, who has no one above him in pay grade.
If the player known as “89” and the owner known as “Big Cat” want it to happen, it’s going to.
Hopefully sooner rather than later.