Ron Rivera: Steve Smith should retire with Panthers

True to his persona to the end, a reflective Steve Smith told reporters Wednesday that there's an "89 percent" chance Sunday's game will be his last in an NFL uniform.

Once Smith is ready make the official announcement, will he let bygones be bygones and sign a ceremonial one-day contract to retire with the Carolina Panthers?

"That's up to Steve," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday, via "I think he should, though. Think of all the years he played here. But it's up to him."

It will be interesting to see how the headstrong wideout handles the situation. Smith had his heart set on retiring with Carolina after the 2014 season, only to suffer the indignity of being released before he could walk away on his own terms.

Once he landed on his feet in Baltimore, he offered harsh words for Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman. In what became known as the "blood and guts" game, Smith extracted revenge by decimating Carolina's secondary for 139 yards and a pair of touchdowns on seven receptions in a Ravens victory.

Although Smith acknowledged in his recent edition of NFL Network's A Football Life that he "bumped heads" with Cam Newton during their time together in Charlotte, the Panthers franchise quarterback suggested Wednesday that those hards feelings are now water under the bridge.

"There's not a lot of guys you look down a dark alley and say, 'I want to bring this person. I want to bring that person,'" Newton offered. "Steve Smith is one of those guys you better make sure he's on your team, not against, because I've seen both of them."

The greatest player in franchise history, Smith holds Carolina records for receptions (836), receiving yards (12,197) and receiving touchdowns (67). As impassioned as he was upon leaving the team three years ago, he has always been fond of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.

The deserving Hall of Famer will be welcomed back to team headquarters with open arms as soon as he's ready to return.

"There's still 11 percent (chance he won't retire)," Rivera quipped. "You never know. But he's earned the right."

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