Steve Smith injury: Panthers WR suffers sprained PCL

Streeter Lecka

Carolina's receiver will likely miss one week, but it could have been far worse.

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith underwent an MRI on his injured left knee Monday, and it was revealed he suffered a sprained PCL.

Head coach Ron Rivera made the announcement in his weekly press conference. Smith went down in the first half of the Week 16 game against the New Orleans Saints. He was initially listed as "questionable" and tried to return to the field but quickly left after one play.

It's not a great prognosis, but it could be far worse. The veteran receiver said he heard a "pop" when he intially went down, prompting fears of a torn ligament. Rivera said Smith was "highly doubtful" for the Panthers Week 17 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, but he should be able to play in the playoffs -- especially if Carolina earns a first round bye, which they would get with a win over the Falcons.

The focus is now on Ted Ginn to pick up the slack. He was a mixed bag against New Orleans, catching arguably the game's most important pass to put the Panthers in the red zone, but also had a bad play early when he punched an errant pass into the air, directly into the hands of a Saints defender. Domenik Hixon will also have his role expanded after a catching the game-winning pass late in the game on Sunday.

Cam Newton leans heavily on Smith at the best of times, and getting him back will be a huge boon for the playoffs. Smith might not be as effective in 2013 as past years, but it's a case of the threat being more than the result itself -- ignore him at your peril.

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