CHARLOTTE — Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith knows the team's front office has more work to do in the offseason. But if the 2010 season were to begin today, he said "we would be down."
Smith, speaking publicly Tuesday for the first time since the team cut veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme and fullback Brad Hoover and allowed defensive end Julius Peppers to leave via free agency, said the loss of those key players and others will have an impact.
"If the season started today, we would be down," Smith said. "We don't have a potential third-string quarterback or a bona fide backup quarterback. We don't have a guy we're considering for [Muhsin Muhammad's receiver] spot. There's a lot of areas we're missing. So now, we're an unfinished product."
Smith said he was saddened when he heard the news that Delhomme and Hoover had been released, as well as others like defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu. Other players, like Peppers and kicker Rhys Lloyd, were not re-signed. The Panthers have not said if they will re-sign Muhammad, the team's No. 2 receiver.
"I lost some friends," Smith said. "My wife lost some friends who are moving away. That was unexpected. But one day, I'm going to be released as well. It's part of the game."
Smith said he thinks Matt Moore, who will replace Delhomme as the starting quarterback, deserves his shot.
"The way Matt played the last four games [of last season], he deserves all the accolades," he said. "He's a young guy. Everybody at some point was where Matt is, a young guy waiting for an opportunity. If Matt does what he's worked on, he'll be as good as he wants to be."
Smith recently was voted the Panthers' player representative and traveled to Hawaii for an NFL Players Association meeting. The main topic was the possibility of a lockout before the 2011 season. The Panthers' Jerry Richardson appears to be taking a leadership role with the owners at this week's NFL meetings in Orlando, Fla.
"All the stuff I've read, [the owners] are united," Smith said. "That's great. The NFLPA is unified as well. With Mr. Richardson at the helm, he's a man of integrity and one of the owners that's played the game. He knows what it's about, what this game is.
"With him there, it's going to be more of a push together to allow football to go on and not deal with a lockout. That's what I take, knowing very well the integrity and the things Mr. Richardson tells the players and what he stands for."
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