Panthers' Smith says too much made of comments to Clausen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith is trying to diffuse any potential controversy involving him and rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

Smith, a four-time Pro Bowl player, said Wednesday that his sideline comments to Clausen during the Panthers' 20-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend have been overblown by the media.

Television cameras caught Smith walking over to Clausen, who was talking with an assistant coach on the bench, and screaming at the rookie.

Smith walked away, then returned and said something else before being escorted away by tight end Jeff King. At that point, a frustrated Smith threw down his cup of Gatorade.

"It was said that I was just about to 'go off,' and I wasn't," Smith said after Wednesday's practice. "I thought it was interesting because here, I was obviously agitated and frustrated, but sometimes people think they know me better than I know myself. I think that's a joke, and I think the people that reported it are jokes."

Clausen, who will make his second NFL start Sunday at New Orleans, downplayed any tension with Smith.

"There really wasn't anything between me and Steve," Clausen said. "Like I told you after the game, it's just his competitiveness as a football player. He wants the ball. I think it's a good thing for your receivers to want the ball as much as they can get it."

When asked Wednesday what he thought of Clausen's performance in his first NFL start, Smith said he did "as well as he could with the current situation."

For more on the Carolina Panthers, check out the latest from our bloggers.

It's no secret the Panthers have been struggling on offense -- not just in the passing game, but running the ball, too -- since preseason began.

After failing to score an offensive touchdown in four preseason games, the Panthers haven't improved much in the regular season, scoring just three touchdowns in three losses. They rank 31st in the NFL in total yards and are last in scoring.

"I think Jimmy, like everybody else, would like to take some throws back, (and change) some decision-making," Smith said. "Myself, I feel the same way. In a loss, it's hard to have positives because you didn't do a good enough job to have positives. But I think he did very good, and he learned a lot of things."

Clausen said he wants to get the ball to Smith, but that it would be a mistake to force it to his star receiver, especially if he's constantly double-covered, as he has been.

"I can't force anything," Clausen said. "I tried to force that one into him (Sunday), and it got intercepted. And that is what you get more times than making a completion. I have to be smart.

"Steve is a great player, and I want to get the ball to him as many times as I can, but I can't force it because it causes turnovers and interceptions."

The Panthers, at 0-3, face a tough road back. Smith said he believes there's a lesson to be learned from last year's 30-20 loss at New Orleans, which ended a six-game winning streak. Carolina had a 14-0 lead, then seemed to take its foot off the gas.

"You get some points early, you can't shut it down -- bottom line," Smith said. "If you get up 14 of 17 points and then you don't do anything after that -- especially against an explosive offense like that -- they're not going to sit around and twiddle their thumbs. They are going to draw up plays in the dirt and do whatever they can to come back.

"So when you get up 14 or 17 or even three points and try to sit on it and hope for the best, it's not going to work."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.