Panthers' Smith: Knee 'fine'
CAROLINA PANTHERS wide receiver Steve Smith said his left knee feels "fine" and he hopes to be ready to play tomorrow against San Francisco in the NFC divisional playoffs.
"I will be all right," Smith said after yesterday's practice. "I should be OK."
Panthers coach Ron Rivera listed Smith, running back Jonathan Stewart and defensive tackle Colin Cole as questionable - or 50 percent - on the team's injury report.
"My gut says he'll play," Rivera said of Smith, the team's all-time leading receiver.
Smith sprained his posterior cruciate ligament in a Week 16 win over New Orleans and has not played since for the Panthers (12-4).
Smith, who has been coy about the injury all week and pulled some bizarre numbers out of thin air to describe his health, looked up at his jersey number and joked there's an "89 percent" chance he'll play against the 49ers.
Smith had estimated Wednesday he was 71 percent and then downgraded himself to 57 percent on Thursday before finally saying that, "Honestly, I just randomly pick numbers."
Smith grinned and said that he settled on 57 percent after winning a rock-paper-scissors matchup with injured offensive lineman Jeff Byers on Thursday.
Byers wanted him to pick 62 percent.
"I won," Smith said. "See, I have kids and he doesn't. I'm well experienced for rock-paper-scissors."
Smith said Thursday that cutting was an issue for him.
He said he ran about five routes in practice yesterday before it started raining hard. He said it was hard to judge if he'd improved much.
"I didn't want to aggravate it," Smith said.
Smith, 34, has been a durable player for the Panthers over his 13 seasons, never missing more than two games in a year except for 2004 when he broke his leg in the season opener.
Smith has played in 182 games, starting 161.
"The unfortunate part about getting injured, whether you're an important piece or a non-important piece, life goes on," Smith said. "Game plans have to be made. Alterations have to be made just in case you're not able to go. That's the bad part about injuries. The real world still goes on."
* Two players violated league concussion protocol during last weekend's wild-card games, according to a letter sent by the NFL's head, neck and spine committee chairmen to all team doctors and trainers. In a document obtained by the Associated Press, Drs. Hunt Batjer and Richard Ellenbogen said one player re-entered the game and another refused to leave the sideline.
The doctors did not identify the players, but one was Green Bay tackle David Bakhtiari, who went into the game for an extra-point try despite being examined for a concussion and not cleared. The other player was Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis, who remained on the sideline but did not get back on the field against the Eagles.
"On two occasions last weekend, and contrary to the advice of the team medical staffs, players who had been diagnosed with a concussion and therefore declared ineligible for play nonetheless refused to leave the sidelines as required by league concussion protocols," the letter said. "In one case, the player went back onto the field for one play before being removed from the game."
The doctors found "no fault" in how the team medical staffs conducted themselves.
The NFL's Madden Rule requires a player diagnosed with a concussion to be taken to the locker room or another quiet location.
* Hue Jackson was introduced as the Cincinnati Bengal's new offensive coordinator, succeeding Jay Gruden, who left to become head coach of the Washington Redskins. Jackson was Oakland's head coach in 2011 and the Bengals' running backs coach this season. Coach Marvin Lewis said assistant offensive line coach Kyle Caskey will replace Jackson as running backs coach.
* A jury has been seated for the trial of former Dallas Cowboys player Josh Brent, who's accused of killing a practice squad player in a drunken-driving wreck. Attorneys selected the jury of Dallas County residents yesterday after 2 days of questioning. Opening statements in the case are scheduled for Monday.
Brent is charged with intoxication manslaughter in the December 2012 death of Jerry Brown in a fatal crash. If convicted of intoxication manslaughter or manslaughter, Brent could face 20 years in prison. He could also get probation.