Rivera calls Smith's situation with Panthers 'a touchy thing'

Panthers coach Ron Riveratold the Charlotte Observer on Thursday that he's spoken with veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, calling the four-time Pro Bowler part of Carolina's plans going forward.

Smith has hinted at his desire to move on, according to the newspaper, and put his house on the market in 2010, despite two years remaining on his contract.

"We had a great discussion about him and what he would like and hopes to accomplish as a football player," Rivera said. "We have to go through the process and see how things fit and where he sees it. It's a touchy thing. We're going to have to wait until everything's cleared up and see where he is."

Rivera told the Observer that he expects the 10-year-veteran to participate in the team's minicamp, if the collective bargaining situation allows for one.

"When we get the opportunity and see how he fits with (minicamp), and see how it fits him and see if it's what we need and what we want, and we'll go from there. As far as I'm concerned, he's a part of what we are right now."

Smith, who missed time in the preseason with a broken arm, ended the season with 46 catches for 554 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games this season. Smith's output was his lowest since 2004. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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