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Carolina Panthers receiver Smith brings guest to work

Carolina receiver Steve Smith had to fly halfway around the world to meet a Panthers fan from Greensboro, but once they were back on this continent, Smith brought him to work Wednesday.

Tennis pro John Isner, ranked 19th in the world despite his third-round exit from the French Open, was hanging around Panthers practice as Smith's guest. The two met when Smith flew to Australia with his family after the season, and Isner arranged some behind-the-scenes access for him at the Australian Open.

When television cameras caught Smith in Isner's box during a match, Isner's pals were texting, amazed that he had run into the guy they had been cheering for on fall Sundays.

"Obviously the ones back home in Greensboro were pretty jealous," Isner said.

They might get together again soon, as Smith is planning to see some Wimbledon matches this summer.

The two make an unlikely pair, not just because of the difference in their sports.

At 6-foot-9, Isner creates matchup problems for opponents with his huge serve. At 5-9, Smith is more known for creating matchup problems with his speed.

While making fun of his friend's large feet, Smith said he thought Isner could make a decent tight end. Isner, who is listed at 240 pounds, said he thought he'd need at least 40 more pounds to compete.

Smith has long been curious about sports outside his own, using his position to work his way into multiple new worlds.

He has attended a number of local NASCAR events, but also travels extensively.

When his son wanted to grow as a soccer player, Smith took the family to England for a few Premier League games, making friends and swapping jerseys with stars such as Manchester City's Shaun Wright-Phillips.

"I respect all athletes and all the sports they do," Smith said. "To get to that level is hard, whatever you do."

That respect has Smith naturally leery of attempting to bat any balls around with Isner, despite the fact he's taken tennis lessons and has his own impressive athleticism.

"I haven't embarrassed myself like that, and I probably won't," Smith said. "If it would happen, we'd probably have to have a pact that nobody speaks about it. And I'd run the chance of losing badly, too."

EXPLORING OPTIONS -- June is the time for experiments, and the Panthers are taking advantage of that time to gauge some offensive line options.

With left tackle Jordan Gross (broken leg) and right tackle Jeff Otah (knee surgery) still on the mend, the Panthers are letting those two sit out some team drills. That allows backups Garry Williams and Geoff Schwartz to work with the starters.

The team also showed another inside alternative, letting 2009 fifth-rounder Duke Robinson work at right guard with the first team.

The Panthers have either had Schwartz or Mackenzy Bernadeau (the presumptive leader in the clubhouse) there in previous practices this offseason.

Many spots on the depth chart are written in pencil this time of year, but there seems to be the opportunity for legitimate competition at that spot, as the Panthers look for free agent Keydrick Vincent's replacement.

INJURY REPORT -- While some players such as Gross, Otah and linebacker Thomas Davis are easing back into team drills, most of the roster is healthy at the moment.

Defensive tackle Tank Tyler brought his helmet and worked for the first time Wednesday, leaving running back Jonathan Stewart as the only guy watching all the drills while he recuperates from offseason surgery.

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