Smith embraces role as captain

CHARLOTTE – For the second time in his 10-year NFL career, Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith has been named a team captain.

Wednesday, he sure sounded like a captain.

"I'm going to conduct myself in a manner that continues to earn the respect of my teammates, and also of my opponents as well," Smith said.

Smith apologized Wednesday for telling Sports Illustrated early in training camp that, he was going to go after New York Giants safety Michael Johnson when the teams meet in the regular season opener Sunday. Johnson delivered the hit that resulted in a broken left arm for Smith in the Panthers' 41-9 victory at the Giants in Week 16 of the 2009 season.

"Just to clear the air, a lot of times I've walked around here the last 10 years and kind of just puffed my chest out, saying that I want the respect of players. The reality is that I have the respect of the players; I've just got to go out there and play," Smith said. "It's not going to prove anything from my end if I go out and just call him out like that. I can't continue to be that way, and I won't be that way.

"To say that, it's just stupid."

When a reporter asked Johnson about Smith's statement to Sports Illustrated, Johnson responded, "Who you talking about? The Steve Smith went to the Pro Bowl?" – a reference his teammate of the same name.

Smith added that he didn't blame Johnson for his response.

"A guy that says that, all he's doing is responding to what I said," Smith said. "It's just me being immature and ignorant and frustrated. I said that, and of course a guy has to respond.

"The bottom line is he's trying to make a living, feed his family, just like me."

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