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Panthers adjust as Smith begins healing

Posted Aug 11, 2009

Wide receiver Steve Smith at practice; Aug. 4, 2009. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)


SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Seeing your Pro Bowl wide receiver injured and in pain during training-camp practice is hardly a positive sign. But it could have been much worse for Steve Smith, who went down during a one-on-one drill Monday night.

"I thought it was broken, because it was hurting," Smith said. "But it's not, so we'll just play it by ear with Ryan (Vermillion) and the training staff. They're doing a good job icing it to death and doing the stuff that's necessary."

"Initially, any time you have an injury you're going to immediately think the worst," fellow receiver Muhsin Muhammad said. "I think after a day of rest and recovery and what-not and being able to assess the injury a little bit better, we can see that it's not as severe as anticipated."

The injury happened during a drill between Smith and cornerback Chris Gamble, but Smith said it was the collision with the ground, not with Gamble, that sent him to the sideline and into the sling on his right arm that he donned Tuesday.

"It was two competitors going after the ball. Accidents happen," Smith said. "I was still upset just because I was going through camp. Whether it's nine years or one year, anyone doesn't want to get hurt and get through camp peacefully and injury-free without worrying about injuries nagging."

Added quarterback Jake Delhomme: "I think he was a lot more sore this morning, but that's to be expected. But he'll be fine. It was going to be sore, but I think he'll back sooner than we think."

Does that mean he'll be back by the season opener? Smith said he would "hope so," but declined to speculate in detail.

"I'm not really sure that I can make that assessment," Smith said. "If I can play, then I'm playing, whether it's preseason or regular season."

Delhomme, however, sees a Week 1 game against Philadelphia with Smith running routes as usual.

"I'm not a doctor, but yeah, I do," Delhomme said. "We're a month and two days away, right? I think he'll be there."

While it would be beneficial to have Smith in action during the preseason, Delhomme acknowledges that it's not entirely necessary.

"The year we went to the Super Bowl, I did not have a rep in the preseason with Moose or Steve. So that's how I looked at it," he said. "I had a few with Ricky Proehl, but other than that, I did not have a rep with those guys."

With Smith injured, wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad said he would move over to the ‘X' receiver slot, which he manned during Smith's two-game suspension at the start of the 2008 regular season, while Jarrett takes the ‘Z' receiver position Muhammad typically handles.

"Moose, he pretty much knows the whole offense," Jarrett said. "I know ‘X' and ‘Z.' I think it's better for me to stay at ‘Z' and for Moose to go to the ‘X.'"

Added Muhammad: "I move all over the place … This offense is a very unique scheme because we have to learn every position as a receiver. Based on our formations, you can line up anywhere. We line up in the backfield in certain situations. Very often I line up at tight end or fullback and I have to know all the responsibilities, blocking and receiving. Moving over to the ‘X' shouldn't be a big deal for me."

Even before Monday night, Jarrett had captured the attention of his quarterback.

"What he's done this year in camp is a big jump," Delhomme said. "I think Dwayne's the one. They're all doing well, but I see a big jump in Dwayne."

"This is an opportunity for me," Jarrett added. "I just have to seize it at its moment, go out there, do what I'm capable of doing and just keep working hard."

Opportunity's door is also wide open for the team's less-experienced receivers to display their skills. In addition to Jarrett, Ryne Robinson, Jason Carter and Kenneth Moore are among those who will move up a notch and find a few more chances in their hands while Smith recovers.

"I think that this is the ideal time. If those guys don't look and see what happened with Geoff Hangartner and Frank Omiyale … then they're not paying attention," Delhomme said, referring to the two backup offensive linemen who made some starts last year and parlayed the work into large free-agent contracts with Buffalo and Chicago, respectively.

"It will be great for these guys to get reps. That's part of it -- especially in preseason. It's time for these guys to shine. That's it. This is their deal. If they don't embrace it, then they're not the kind of player we think they are.

"This is the time for a lot of these players to separate themselves," he added. "It's competition. That's what it's about."

"I think he'll be back there quicker than we all think," Delhomme said. "Certainly you never want someone to miss time, but he's got enough time in this offense that he has a pretty strong idea what we're doing."