I'll be the first to admit that I'm like a hormonal teenager when it comes to Steve Smith. There are peaks and there are valleys. Sometimes I find myself furious with him, the other times I'm passing him notes like a love sick teenager with boxes marked 'yes, no and maybe' (figuratively of course). So when I heard that Fred Graves was going to be WR coach, that Ricky Proehl was on board and when Joe Kenn became strength and conditioning coach I didn't hate the hires- but I also pegged them as 'these appease Smitty too' type guys.
That was until this evening when I read Joseph Person's post about Smith, and when you really listen to what Rivera is saying I think you'll feel like I do now... sure he's going to be gone.
I'm a big 'read between the lines' type of guy. I think I've honed a deft ear to 'coach speak' in dealing with John Fox for the better part of a decade; when 'you'll have to ask the personnel department really means 'that sure as hell wasn't my decision!' and 'It is what it is' meant 'Back off... what do you want me to tell you?' you tend to learn how coaches like to phrase things. So when Ron Rivera says:
"As far as I'm concerned, he's a part of what we are right now."
It tells me that 'right now' is February, and 'right now' doesn't last very long. Especially when that's preceeded with:
"we've got to have our minicamp and all that when we get the opportunity and see how he fits with it, and see how it fits him and see if it's what we need and what we want, and we'll go from there."
These aren't the words of a head coach who is ready, willing and able to kowtow to a 10-year veteran with recent outbursts when things don't go his way; and nor should he. The thing that's funny about Person's article is that if you read it in reverse you actually get the most out of it, and you see that the nail in the coffin (from where I sit):
"Rivera indicated he expected Smith, at a minimum, to participate in the team's minicamp (provided a new CBA is in place in time for teams to stage minicamps)."
Later the Panthers' HC says he appreciated Smith's candor on where he is, and where he wants to be. When you couple that with only expecting a minicamp, and working from there it lends itself to the notion that as it stands the two sides are not optimistic they can be what each other 'wants', but are willing to give it the old college try because unless there is a CBA they're stuck with each other for the time being.
Other notes from Rivera
In the same article Ron Rivera says that QB Jimmy Clausen elected to stay in Charlotte and rehab his injury, rather than return to Notre Dame to get his degree at this time. When you couple this with previous messages from Clausen via Twitter that he was studying the new playbook then you see a player sacrificing his previous goals to work on football, and that is a good thing. My understanding is that Jimmy is finishing up the classes he started via correspondence, but wont be taking any more at this time.
Best news though is this quote from Rivera:
"I'm excited. I think there's a great group of young guys. I had a real nice conversation the other day with (defensive end) Charles Johnson. You hope to get a chance to visit with everybody and talk to everybody and have them feel like they want to be here. I think that's important."
If CJ wants to be here, then that is amazing news because he could be the most important resigning we have.