Carolina Panthers

Panthers' Smith not happy with dropped passes

Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith reacts after his touchdown catch in the third quarter last week against the Saints.
Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith reacts after his touchdown catch in the third quarter last week against the Saints.

CHARLOTTE -- The flip side of making big plays is that big mistakes sometimes tag along.

So while Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith's off to a remarkable start this year, he's also had to deal with some frustrating drops that mar his record.

Smith has 28 catches for 496 yards and two touchdowns this season, an impressive start after missing the first two games.

But he's also tied for fourth in the league in drops with five.

That's balanced out by his playmaking abilities -- as his 17.7-yard per reception average is eighth in the league and his six catches of 25 yards or more are fifth -- but not in Smith's mind.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme said Smith was so bothered by some drops against Tampa, including what would have been an easy touchdown, that they had an impromptu meeting on the field during practice a week ago.

"In his mind, I know he was disappointed because he dropped a walk-in touchdown pass in the Tampa game and it was something that ate at him," Delhomme said. "But you go through that during the season. This season is a grind. Those are tough times when you get down on yourself. I think I have a different relationship with him, and he knows what I expect out of him. He needs to worry about Steve. He was probably upset because he dropped a sure-fire touchdown pass and on top of that, we didn't play well. When you want to be good at what you do, it just eats at you. It really does eat at you. But you have to move on and focus on the task at hand. And he obviously did that."

Smith responded with six catches for 122 yards and a touchdown last week against the Saints.

"I'm a big believer in listening," Delhomme said of their talk. "If somebody wants to talk, you listen to what they say and don't tell them too many things. I'm a right-to-the-point type of guy. I don't need to beat around the bush with him. I tell him exactly how I feel, and he knows it and he knows I mean it."

Asked what he told his receiver, Delhomme replied: "Be Steve."

They'll take that for all its implications.

• NOT JUST A KICKER: Panthers kicker John Kasay declined all interview requests last week, something not unusual for him.

Even though he owns a journalism degree from Georgia, he shies away from most talking -- at least to reporters.

But the soon-to-be 39-year-old Kasay is far more of a presence in the locker room, where he's someone coach John Fox leans on for help leading the team.

"John's a smart guy. He understands the business; he understands the game," Fox said. "I think he's got a lot of wisdom -- not just football-wise, which he does -- but also life skills and understanding the business part of the National Football League. He's been a player rep. He understands how the business works. The example he sets as far as his tenure in the league as well as the example he sets in his life as a man and as a player, he's got great wisdom for young players. Any time you have that, I think it's good.

"He's a leader on the football team. I'm in constant communication, ... the mindset of the team, the mood of the team. There are all kinds of things we adjust accordingly. He's a team captain, and in my mind he's always been one, and he's definitely a team leader."

• REMEMBERING VINNY: It was a little more than a year ago when the Panthers were getting ready for the Cardinals, and Vinny Testaverde came riding in on his white horse.

The then-43-year-old quarterback led them to an improbable win at Phoenix four days after signing, making him an idol around these parts.

"Oh yeah, The Don," center Geoff Hangartner said when asked about Testaverde last week. "We were all trying to figure out how old we were when he came into the league. I was like 2.

"It was a little different. But we won the game. We went out there and The Don helped us win one."

Tight end Jeff King downplayed the circus aspect, saying he was impressed with how quickly Testaverde picked up the Panthers' system.

"I think he had been around it," King said. "I think he knew kind of the basics and kind of brushed off the dust a little bit on some of it. He came in and did a great job.

"Now we have Jake back, and we welcome that. Hopefully, we can go out and play even better than we did last year."

• EXTRA POINTS: For the third straight week, the Panthers are visited by the FOX network crew that includes sideline reporter Laura Okmin. That makes her a larger presence around the team than her husband, Pete Russell, who works as a college scout for the team.

Of course, since they're based in Arizona and he lives the vagabond life of a scout covering the West Coast, they see more of her than they do of him.

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