Sorensen

Smith ready to be traded

Staff WriterMay 1, 2011 

Steve Smith plays kickball Saturday on the same field the Charlotte Providence high school Panthers use.

It's as close as Smith will come to being a Panther next season.

"Fifty-50," said Jordan Gross, when I ask the odds of Smith playing for Carolina. "That's better than most odds they're giving."

Gross organized the game, which is light and loose and entertaining, to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Smith is one of his stars. He gets more applause when he's introduced than any player but Cam Newton.

I talk to Smith before the game. He said he and his family just returned from the U.K. and had a great trip.

Speaking of return, do you plan to return to Carolina next season?

"I don't even know if we'll play football next season," Smith said.

Wearing a Reebok T-shirt, Smith said players and owners aren't close to resolving their labor issues. He said he wants to do what he's paid to do, and that's play football.

Where?

"I can't answer that," Smith said.

Smith won't say this publicly, but he wants to be traded.

The Panthers won't say this publicly, but they're willing to trade him.

"I'm going to stick with what I've been saying since the beginning," Smith said to a small group of reporters. "It's a private matter. It'll be between me and my family when we make the decision."

He added: "When the decision is made people will have their opinions about it. But I love Charlotte. I've enjoyed playing here. And the reason I say that is because we're not allowed to play right now. We've been locked out. So unfortunately that's the way you've got to talk about it. I just don't see the point of talking about things that you can't even do right now."

You cleaned out your locker, somebody said.

"You clean out your locker every year," Smith said. "And there's going to be a lockout, so why would I want to try to come in during the lockout - which I wouldn't be allowed to do - and get my things that I need to train in?"

Smith is the best player in Panther history. He's also the most entertaining.

Smith leaves his teammates on the bench, walks to the bleachers and signs jerseys, caps and balls for fans.

You never know what you'll get with Smith. He could be petulant. He also could be expansive. He could be petulant at 1 and expansive at 1:05.

Smith is smart and funny and curious, and his interests extend far beyond his sport.

He's also a 10-year veteran. Yet last season he publicly undermined quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who struggled as a rookie, and made a terrible situation worse.

That wasn't leadership.

Smith steps to the plate for the third time Saturday as Credence Clearwater's "Fortunate Son" plays loudly in the background.

The lyrics go: "And when you ask them, how much should we give, ooh, they answer more."

On the field Smith gave the Panthers everything. Next season, he'll give it to somebody else.

tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com or 704-358-5119

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