Smith says not getting complacent key to success

Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith said the reason he’s been

able to play 12 years in the NFL is because he never allowed

himself to get complacent.

The 34-year-old Smith said complacency leads to laziness- and

lazy is one thing he’s not.

He said he’s tried to treat every day in the NFL as if it’s his

first and he has something to prove.

Smith said earlier this week of his legacy, ”A lot of people

can say, `Well, he did this. He punched a guy. He did that. He’s

this, he’s that. But one thing you’ll never say about me is I

didn’t work. I’m going to work.”

Smith was referring to a career that has had its share of

highlights and a few moments he’d father forget.

He’s led the Panthers in yards receiving in 10 of the past 12

seasons – he missed 15 games in 2004 because of a broken leg – and

is the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards

and touchdowns.

He’s played in a Super Bowl, two NFC title games and five Pro

Bowls.

But he’s also had moments where his tough, inner-city Los

Angeles upbringing that fuels his fire has gotten the best of him,

including two incidents where he punched a teammate – receiver

Anthony Bright in the film room meeting in 2002 and cornerback Ken

Lucas during a training camp practice in 2008.

Smith has apologized in the past for both incidents and tried to

put them behind him, although he knows some will never let him

forgive him for his wrongdoings.

Through it all Smith said he’s never viewed himself as a lock to

make the Panthers roster, which in part explains the chip on his

shoulder that has been there for years.

”We go to camp with 12 receivers, sometimes 13 receivers every

year,” Smith said. ”In 10 years that’s 120 guys who have sat in

that seat. Only a few of them have remained and I’m one of those

few guys. I don’t say that to brag. I say that because I’m

fortunate, that I’m lucky.

”So I’m not going to roll the dice and say `I’ve got it this

week’ or `I’m not going to put in the preparation, not put in the

work, not put in that mental aspect.”’

Smith said a big part of what drives him these days is the

lessons he wants to teach them the value of hard work.

”How can I say work hard if I’m sitting and home playing video

games and they never see me doing anything?” Smith said.

Smith who has played all 12 seasons with the Panthers, has

11,452 career yards receiving, which is 23rd in NFL history.

He remains Carolina’s No. 1 receiver and Cam Newton’s favorite

weapon, coming off a season where he caught 73 passes for 1,174

yards, and still thinks he can play a few more years.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said recently Smith ”still looks like

he’s 25” and has said nobody works harder than Smith to maintain

his high level of play.

Smith, to this day, remains cocky, intense and has a flare for

the dramatic. He talks trash and isn’t afraid to do a little

taunting lest anybody forget that inner fire that drives him.

Even on a hot day at training camp Smith does his signature ball

spin after most receptions.

There’s a chance the league could try to clamp down on that this

year, though. The NFL has installed new rules where players will be

penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct if they spin the

ball after the completion of a play in the vicinity of an opposing

player.

”We are working that out,” Smith said with a laugh. ”I have

to alter it a little bit…. Some people probably are like, `Yes,

it’s finally gone.’ I hate to burst your bubble, but it’s still

here.”

Entering his 13th season, Smith still appears to have that same

burst he had five or six years ago, able to use his speed and

quickness to get by younger defenders. He attributes his longevity

to having good genes, regular workouts with a personal trainer and

his switch to an organic diet back in 2006.

It’s not unusual for Smith to leave training camp at lunchtime

and drive 30 miles to find an organic grocery store.

If Father Time is catching up with Smith, he’s not willing to

admit it – at least not yet.

”If I’ve lost a step, that’s good and that’s great. It may

happen,” Smith said. ”(But) what I’m doing at 34, there are GM’s

hoping and praying they can draft a guy that can do what I’m

doing.”

Online: AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org

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