SPARTANBURG, S.C. — There are things we know Steve Smith likes: his family, touchdowns, winning games.
There are also things we know he doesn't care for: training camp, preseason games and chumps.
Smith was activated from the physically unable to perform list Monday, and he ran a few routes and caught a few passes from quarterback Matt Moore during individual work. It wasn't much, but it was enough to elicit an ovation from the crowd at Gibbs Stadium during a gray morning workout.
"I heard everybody cheering during our individual drills, and I knew they weren't hollering about the O-line," left tackle Jordan Gross cracked.
It was Smith's most extensive action since breaking his arm playing flag football in June and creates another positive step toward being back on the field for the Sept. 12 regular-season opener.
He was open and engaging when discussing the injury, his prognosis and what he's going to try to do to protect himself.
When asked if he was worried that opponents might try to target his twice-broken left arm, Smith shrugged.
"I really haven't thought about it. I hope not," Smith replied. "I would hope that it wouldn't be a target, but who knows? Every so often you'll come up on a chump that may try whatever - emphasis on chump. ...
"I mean if they want to try, they can come get some if they want it. I don't think it's going to work out too well for them. There ain't much bone left in this thing."
Smith still has three metal plates and an estimated 15 to 20 screws still in his left forearm. He suffered the original injury in December at New York, then re-injured a nearby area during his ill-chosen summer hobby.
The Panthers lack any kind of proven threat in the passing game without him, and they're still trying to sort out who will start opposite him in the opener.
The four-time Pro Bowler has 574 career receptions, while the rest of the receivers on the current roster have 48 (and 33 of those are by Dwayne Jarrett). He said that from his perch on the sidelines in camp, he has seen flashes from the others but didn't endorse any particular candidate.
"I haven't seen anybody that I think has really separated himself," Smith said. "You've seen some young guys make great plays, and you've seen some guys make young plays. You've kind of got to let it be and let those guys grow and learn, and we'll see."
During his brief work, he made a dazzling, leaping grab of a Moore pass, the kind of thing he does routinely in practices. Any list of his top 10 catches that doesn't include six or seven from weekday practices is woefully incomplete, as he's used to throwing himself without fear at any pass, no matter when it's thrown.
Yet he's willing to exercise caution when it comes to actually practicing with any contact, or playing in preseason games.
Even coach John Fox deferred when asked if Smith needed to play in any exhibitions, saying: "Not really. I feel compelled to have him ready for that opener and whatever that takes getting him ready."
"We'll have plenty of time to get him sharp," Fox said. "He's always come in great shape. He always takes great care of his body as far as being a true pro. I think he'll do what's necessary, and I know our training department and coaching staff will have him ready."