Torrey Smith confident he can be a valuable contributor in 2019

Smith in action against Philly

CHARLOTTE – Torrey Smith was expecting to be a Panther in 2019, but the team's decision to exercise their option on the wideout made it official.

Carolina believes the 30-year-old brings value with veteran savvy, leadership ability and the speed to threaten defenses.

But first things first, Smith is working his way back to 100 percent after suffering a knee injury midway through the 2018 season.

"I've been out there (at the team facility) the majority of the offseason making sure I'm as healthy as possible," Smith said. "It's not going to be an issue when we get rolling. I'm building up the strength and it's getting there.

"I don't have any concerns."

That mentality also applies to the way he sees his role going forward.

With Smith out of the lineup and Devin Funchess, a soon-to-be free agent, receiving less and less playing time as last season wore on, DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel shined. The emerging young wide receivers have positioned themselves for bigger and better in 2019.

So where does that leave someone like Smith?

"I'm fully capable of being the guy and fully capable of being a guy," said Smith, who posted 17 receptions for 190 yards and two touchdowns last year. "I'm looking forward to continuing to guide and lead DJ and Curt. They are two very talented players and they're going to be successful in this league for a long time. I'm also looking forward to competing and pushing everyone."

Smith's first season in Carolina didn't go the way he wanted it to. He made one of the plays of the year in Week 7 at Philadelphia with a 35-yard catch on fourth-and-10, a conversion that helped the Panthers rally past his former team. But he injured his knee earlier in that game and knew something was wrong after the adrenaline wore off.

He missed the next four games and had just one catch the rest of way. With a lack of production came criticism, and Smith knows there are plenty of naysayers out there, some Panthers fans among them.

"I was starting to be involved and then I got hurt. When I'm healthy I can play – period," Smith said. "I'm well respected by my opponents and I believe in my ability. People look at it and say, 'He didn't do anything all year.' But for me man, I don't really worry about that. I know the people in our locker room know I can play."

Jim Hostler knows he can play, too. Hostler was Smith's position coach in Baltimore from 2011-13, the first three years of Smith's career, and he is taking over for Lance Taylor as Panthers wide receivers coach in 2019.

"Hostler helped mold me into being a pro," said Smith, who posted a career-best 65 catches for 1,128 yards under Hostler's guidance in 2013. "I'll try to help these young guys and I know what Hostler expects. He's going to push us and challenge us, and to be honest, that's going to be great for guys like DJ and Curt."

View some of the top images from wide receiver Torrey Smith's first season in Carolina.

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