Steve Smith braces for former team

Head coach Ron Rivera and the Panthers say they are focused on playing another game against a quality opponent.

The fact that former Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. plays for the opposition doesn't change much for them.

"We're playing the Baltimore Ravens. Steve plays for the Ravens, and that's just the way it is," Rivera said. "This game is not about one guy."

But for Smith and Panthers fans, this game is unique.

During his 13 years in Carolina, Smith became a face of the franchise, and he left as its all-time leading receiver.

"I don't think it's any other game (for me)," Smith said in a conference call with the Carolina media. "I never really imagined I would be in a different uniform. I never really thought that I would be playing against the Panthers. Now, I am."

Anytime a player spends more than a decade in one uniform, it's strange to see the colors change. And it will be strange for Smith to line up against so many former teammates and so many friends.

"I've had continuous conversations via text or telephone. Thomas Davis has sent me jokes, we've talked. My wife and Thomas' wife had lunch the other week back in Charlotte," Smith said. "My relationship with guys has not discontinued because of where I play."

Carolina is home for the Ravens wide receiver. "It will always be my home," he said.

And it will always be important to him.

"Do I miss playing there? 13 years? I miss everything about Carolina," Smith said. "But I understand it is a business. Sometimes you have to temporarily go somewhere else."

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