The Panthers have amassed fewer yards and points than any other team in the playoffs. A banged-up Steve Smith doesn't help.
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The team's top wide receiver told reporters he suffered a setback during Thursday's practice, aggravating his nagging knee injury just three days ahead of Sunday's divisional playoff showdown with the San Francisco 49ers.
"It didn't go as well as I thought it would," said Smith, who downgraded himself from 71 percent Wednesday to 57 percent one day later, per Fox Sports' Peter Schrager.
Former team beat writer Darin Gantt weighed in, saying: "Remember when calculating Steve Smith's injury evaluations, to factor in a 27 percent exaggeration factor. He likes to feel needed."
Coach Ron Rivera told reporters that Smith is "not his normal self yet," saying he did what was asked of him at practice and will be evaluated again Friday, according to The Charlotte Observer.
Smith's production has dipped this season. As Chris Wesseling pointed out, from 2011 to 2012, Calvin Johnson was the only player with more receptions of 20-plus yards than No. 89. This year, a whopping 135 pass catchers had Smith beat in that category.
Still, without him, Cam Newton would be forced on Sunday to puncture a rugged 49ers defense with throws to Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn. We fully expect Smith -- the leader of this offense -- to be out there no matter where he says he's at today.
The latest "Around The League Podcast" featured a very special in-studio visit from Bears star Brandon Marshall.