Steve Smith, Charles Johnson excited about Panthers camp

By Pete Iacobelli

Associated Press

Published: Friday, July 29 2011 12:04 p.m. MDT

Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith unpacks his truck as he arrives at Wofford College for the beginning of the NFL football team's training camp in Spartanburg, S.C., Friday, July 29, 2011.

Chuck Burton, Associated Press

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Steve Smith acknowledged he didn't handle things all that well during Carolina's dismal 2-14 season a year ago. With Panthers camp set to begin, Smith said Friday he's ready to put that all behind him.

Smith was among the Carolina players who reported for training camp Friday at Wofford College. The biggest absence was No. 1 draft pick Cam Newton, although Smith says he and the young quarterback texted each other Friday morning.

Smith said the addition of Newton, first-year coach Ron Rivera and several big-money moves to keep players like running back DeAngelo Williams, defensive end Charles Johnson and linebacker Jon Beason, have given him plenty of reasons to be excited about the Panthers' future.

That wasn't always the case — and Smith admitted Friday he'd made a jerk of himself "for a long time by letting my emotions get the better or me."

Smith was limited to 46 catches for 554 yards and two touchdowns last season amid terrible quarterback play by the NFL's worst offense. The lack of production led to speculation that Smith might want to go to a contender before his career ended.

But Smith said talking with family and the Carolina Panthers showed him he did not want to leave.

"Last year was frustrating for everyone and 95 percent of the time, I would say I didn't handle it very well," Smith said. "We looked at our future here and at the end of the day, the decision was made because of my wife and children, this is where we want to be. And that's why I'm here."

Smith said he never asked for a trade or for more money — although he might rethink that with the way owner Jerry Richardson is securing players.

Johnson agreed to a deal worth $72 million over six years and said he was surprised with the windfall. "I'm pumped, I'm excited," Johnson said. "Mr. Richardson gave a lot of money to a lot of players."

Johnson and the other free-agent signees can't practice until Aug. 4.

Beason was the latest Panthers core player to get locked up, announcing the agreement on Twitter late Thursday night. Beason has started all 64 games since joining the Panthers as first-round draft pick in 2007.

The Panthers have also lso signed kicker Olindo Mare, defensive tackle Ray Edwards and safety Sean Considine and traded for tight end Greg Olsen from the Bears, who also got a new long-term deal.

Smith is comfortable with his contract, which has two more seasons to run.

"I know the responsibility I have with putting my name on a contract," he said. "I've never been upset with the deal. I was happy when I was offered. I'm happy working under it. I'm not looking for a contract extension or any of that stuff."

Smith can't wait to get all the Panthers on the field again. He said he has worked privately several times with Newton and likes the potential the former Auburn quarterback can bring to Carolina.

Smith is especially excited about the Panthers acquisition of Olsen from Chicago. Smith said he wanted Olsen when the players was coming out of college at Miami. "He could move pretty good for a tight end," he said.

Smith has also been impressed with Rivera, who he said is a straight-forward leader who doesn't try and play games with players, Smith said. "No -isms," Smith said.

Smith unpacked his SUV and headed into the Wofford dorm with a huge playbook to read. He said he found several routes he likes and is ready to fit into the schemes of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. "I'm excited about the offense," he said. "I've actually got to study," he said.

Smith is mostly hoping to wipe out the frustrations of last season. "People create their own opinion of me and rightfully so," he said. "I understand at times my emotions make me seem ignorant and immature."

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