After reading all of the responses to the original fanshot, I was forced to admit that "Smith Clears the Air" was an incredibly poor title choice. A thick fog and fishy stench remains in the air, leaving much for interpretation. I re-read the article/interview using my "EyeClops Night Vision Infrared Stealth Goggles," and came away with a more realistic point of view, as further explained after the jump.
The Fanshot comments
Smith's motivation is to let people know his story — and that he hasn't ruled out any end to it.
Who are the "people" he wants to know his story? Richardson, Hurney, and Rivera? His faithful fans? Or maybe just all people of the universe? Or, maybe, certain team FO personnel in a certain left coast city who are rumored to be "monitoring" the situation?
"I would rather do it on my terms when I have the ability to," Smith said, noting that the NFL's lockout has put his and every other NFL player's status on hold for now. "These people that keep writing these articles, none of them have even spoken to me. What I want to do is be classy and not tip my cards, be respectful to the (Panthers) organization.
"It's not me saying, 'Yes, I want a trade.' It's still a family matter, and when my family feels it's the appropriate time, our actions will show how we feel."
I think what he's trying to say here is that he's not the source of the recent rampant rumors; those that say he wants to be traded to San Diego, Baltimore (?), Oakland (??), and now New England (Booo!) and Houston (???). It seems that every week, a new team joins the list. So from whence come these rumors? I don't know. Maybe his agent? Mayhaps the Panthers are floating trial balloons to guage interest? Did Smitty tell this guy who told that guy... who knows? The following quote bothers me the most (emphasis mine):
On rumors that he has asked to be traded: "First of all, have I demanded a trade? I have not demanded a trade. What I have asked for is to be in a competitive situation. I sat down with Marty a lot of times prior to the lockout. I am respected as a veteran amongst the players as well as the front office. So there has been dialogue (about his future in Carolina) prior to the lockout."
That little gem stirred up the most controversy among commenters on the fanshot. My confidential source (James Dator) has multiple sources in the organization that told him Smith asked to be traded. I do not doubt the reliability of James or his sources. I think Smitty is doing the Semantics Cha-Cha-Cha playing with the word "demanded." C'mon Smitty, as wonderful as all the rest of the interview may be, this one major mis-stepcreates doubt about its credibility. And we all want to believe you about the house.
Really the message I sent was to my kids: Dad made a mistake. This isn't how we are supposed to live. This isn't what I should be projecting. If we don't do this now, what incentive do I give my kids to reach for? You make a lot of money and then you go blow it? I don't want to be a statistic. I want to be a good steward.
I'm going to choose to believe Smitty, because it's a beautiful sentiment, eloquently worded, and carries little meaning regarding the overall topic at hand.
Smith's agent, Derrick Fox, asked him to make a list of his priorities in terms of what he wants in the final years of his career. At the top of Smith's list was the chance to play for a championship. Other priorities included wanting to play with improved, veteran personnel and being in a place where he and his family were happy.
"What he has said to me is that he has a burning desire to show that, physically, he's still there," (Smith's agent)said. "He's still a high-end receiver. And with that, he wants to be on a team that is hopefully on the verge of winning a championship."
"Carolina might say, 'You know what? We're going in a different direction and we don't want you to be a part of that process,'" Smith said. "I am a big boy, and I am ready for that possibility."
..."Every entertainer in the process of their job has a vision of performing in front of their home crowd, especially if they live farther away from home," Smith said. "I have always loved the privilege and the honor of playing in the state of California. But I don't desire to be employed by every team in the state of California."
Okay, was Derrick Fox part of the same interview, or was that part added later? Hmm...no matter. There's really nothing in these statements to suggest Smitty wants to stay. It seems more a re-confirmation of his original non-demand... (minus Oakland?). Message sent.
Smith does go on to include a possibility he could stay in Carolina, but it seems much more afterthought than preference. There are still two years on his contract (around $15 million), and the Panthers can trade him or keep him with or without his consent. He's not burning any bridges, and is remaining respectful. I admire that.
Smitty addresses his declining performance over the past two years without directly pointing any fingers (other than "wondering if I would be lucky enough to catch more than one pass.") Self doubt, pressing too hard, undisclosed injuries... these are the reasons. He acknowledges that he hurt the team, and feels he let his teammates down. So he's accepting accountability. I also admire that.
"All the changes that the Panthers organization has made, does it change my feelings towards the team? I have no ill feelings; I have not changed. I am not upset. I am not mad," he said. "Those changes they made, I think they are not small — they are huge. They are foundational changes. I think it changes the whole attitude, the whole atmosphere."
If there's anything in this interview to suggest Smitty would be interested in returning, it's this statement. Yet, he stops short of saying he would like to be part of the new attitude and atmosphere. Actually, he doesn't even say the changes are for the better. We fans want to believe things are moving in the right direction. I know I believe. But Smitty has loyalties to former players and coaches, and we could be reading this statement through the wrong filter. Very ambiguous...
Smith believes he's got another 5 or 6 years left, and wants to contribute to a team's success, wherever that may be.
"As I feel right now, I would like to play as long as there is an opportunity — and to play with the same passion but with just a little bit of a different perspective," he said. "Less about what somebody can give me and more about what I can offer and what I can bring to the table and improve and help (a team)."
..."I do understand that statistically people will look at (my contract) and say, 'You're not worth it.' My answer to that is this: Line me up on the field, give me a year, and I will make sure I'll be worth it — even a little bit more."
Another message to the left coast? Message sent.
"I know I can still play. I know it."
We know you can still play, Smitty. Hurney and Rivera, and certainly Mr. Richardson, know you can still play.
I'm taking the EyeClops Night Vision Infrared Stealth Goggles off now, as they're giving me a headache. I have to say that I'm a huge fan of Smitty's. He's given me more moments of ecstasy than, well... I'll stop there. I am a little pissed about this interview, though. I'm not pissed at Smitty, I'm pissed at myself. I understand fully the position he's in, his need to sell himself (if somewhat covertly), and his desire for a championship. When I read this article the first time, it fooled me; because deep down I'm all Panthers, and Smitty will always be a Panther to me.
p.s. I still hope Smitty comes back, I just don't expect it.