Panthers hopeful Smith could play in final preseason game

The Carolina Panthers will open training camp in two weeks without Steve Smith, but the team is hopeful that their injured wide receiver could be back for the final preseason game.

Smith broke his arm last month while playing flag football, and the injury typically takes two months to fully heal. Smith has been regularly working with trainers, a team source said Thursday, and could be back in time for the Panthers' Sept. 2 preseason finale at Pittsburgh.

Smith is a notoriously fast healer and already is making good progress toward a return, the source said. Even if Smith isn't ready for a preseason game, the Panthers remain confident that he will be back for the Sept. 12 season opener against the New York Giants.

Smith is a perennial Pro Bowl player who is the fulcrum of the Panthers' passing game. He has received limited work with Carolina's young quarterbacks -- fourth-year pro Matt Moore and rookies Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike.

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