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Panthers WR Smith says he's 'not really focusing on next year'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Yes, Steve Smith has put his house up for sale. Yes, he has chatted with Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.

It doesn't mean he wants to play at a different address next season. At least not yet.

The four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver on Tuesday addressed speculation -- sort of -- about his future after it was recently revealed that his Charlotte-area home is on the market. Smith, 31, is the oldest position player left after an offseason roster overhaul left the Panthers (2-12) wallowing with the worst record in the NFL.

Smith has been held to 43 catches for 537 yards and two touchdowns -- the last coming in Week 2 -- and is on pace for his worst statistical season in a year in which he has been healthy.

"As far as my contract, I'm getting ready for Pittsburgh and then Atlanta," said Smith, whose team visits the Steelers on Thursday. "Then I will discuss with my wife and my children like I do everything else -- like I put my house on the market."

Smith said that decision was made "because of the addition that we were thinking about adding to our family." He also said his house has been for sale since June, long before the Panthers began their poor season.

Smith is under contract through 2012, but it has been suggested that he might want to be traded to a contender if the Panthers begin a long rebuilding process. Coach John Fox is in the last year of his contract, and the team almost certainly will have a new coach next season.

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"Am I concerned about my contract? No," Smith said. "Am I looking forward to the end of the year? Actually, not. But I'm not really focusing on next year."

With no reliable No. 2 receiver and shoddy quarterback play, the Panthers have become the NFL's lowest-scoring team and worst passing offense. The fiery Smith's frustrations boiled over as recently as Dec. 12, when he lashed out at struggling rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen by saying, "He ain't at Notre Dame anymore, that's for sure."

Smith, who has twice been suspended for punching teammates, has maintained a close relationship over the years with Richardson. That has continued despite the roster churn and Richardson's key role for the owners in the tense negotiations over a new labor deal.

Smith said recent news that he met with Richardson is nothing unusual and, "We'll always talk, whether I'm an employee here or not. The relationship I have with Mr. Richardson is very unique."

Smith declined to say if he discussed his future or the direction of the team in his recent chat with Richardson, the only ex-player who currently owns an NFL franchise.

"What me and Mr. Richardson talk about for the last 10 years will not be said in front of cameras or recorders," Smith said. "That's an authentic relationship. The kind of guy I am, I don't really talk about things like that because then it waters down what we really have."

Facing constant double teams like he has for much of the season, Smith was held to just two catches for 22 yards in Sunday's 19-12 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. But as Carolina's poor season reaches a close, Smith insisted he's only thinking about getting ready to play Pittsburgh.

"I'm not really focusing on next year because it's going to be bad weather," Smith said. "For us old folks, that cold weather is going to do us bad. It's going to be a tough, physical game and I've got my teammates counting on me to play ball. I've got a little more on my plate than just next year."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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