Capitals

Panthers WR Smith, 33, keeps piling up numbers

Panthers WR Smith, 33, keeps piling up numbers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Panthers receiver Steve Smith said there was a time when he was consumed by his goals, one of them being making the Hall of Fame.

Make no doubt it; he'd still love to wind up there.

But the 12-year NFL veteran has mellowed some, taking a little more time to enjoy the twilight of the NFL career as he quietly strives to become the first player ever drafted by the Panthers to make it to Canton, Ohio.

``When you are so focused on goals you start to miss other things,'' Smith said. ``So I'm enjoying not missing the other things. I'll allow the other things to be discussed when I'm done playing.''

In the meantime, the 33-year-old Smith plans to continue to spin the ball after catches and irritate defensive backs who attempt to shut him down.

That's no easy task.

Smith's latest 100-yard receiving game Sunday against Atlanta was the 43rd of his career, putting him in the top 10 in NFL history.

He currently ranks 26th all-time with 11,277 yards receiving and 32nd in receptions (759). He needs 197 catches and 2,500 yards receiving to move into the top 10 in both categories.

Those around him believe he's more than capable of reaching those marks with a few more seasons playing alongside Cam Newton.

``He still plays like he's 22,'' Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

Despite being at the tail end of his career, Smith is still Carolina's unquestioned No. 1 receiver.

He leads the Panthers in receptions and enters Sunday's game against San Diego one yard shy of his seventh 1,000-yard receiving season. When Newton needs a big play, more often than not he's looking Smith's way.

And how can you blame him?

``You know what's interesting about Steve is the way he practices,'' Rivera said. ``He still practices so hard and you actually have to ask him to take reps off. ... Then he'll go back in right away and go 100 miles per hour again. It's just who Steve is, and that's why he's had so much success and has lasted as long as he has.''

Chargers coach Norv Turner compares Smith to Henry Ellard, another seemingly ageless receiver who turned in a 1,000-yard receiving season at 35.

``My experience with receivers like Steve is once they get to a point and they haven't slowed down, it seems like they go forever,'' Turner said. ``The thing that Steve has aside from all his athleticism - his great speed, his strength, his ability to cut - is just has that attitude that's so competitive that he's going to go out and be successful.

``And I think when you're getting ready to play against him, you better understand it's going to be a dogfight, it's going to be competitive, it's going to be toe-to-toe for 60 plays and you'd better be ready to meet that challenge.''

Panthers fourth-year cornerback Captain Munnerlyn called Smith is the best receiver he's ever faced ``by far.''

``That's great for me because I practice against him,'' Munnerlyn said. ``It makes the game on Sunday way easier for me.''

Munnerlyn said he hasn't seen Smith lose a step.

He said he's still the quickest receiver on the roster and the toughest to defend.

``He's amazing. Being that age, he can still run.'' Munnerlyn said. ``That's the scary part. Honestly it doesn't seem like he's slowing down anytime soon.''

Former Tampa Bay and Carolina receiver Mark Carrier played in the NFL until he was 32 and can't imagine playing at the level Smith is right now.

Carrier said at some point in time the body begins to wear down, but Smith doesn't seem affected by any of that.

``I think his competitiveness is what drives him,'' Carrier said.

Smith has made plenty of mistakes off the field during his time in Carolina, but he's matured into a team leader and captain.

He continues to pass his knowledge along to the younger receivers on the roster.

``We're all in awe of the way he plays,'' said Panthers rookie receiver Jared Green, a member of the team's practice squad. ``But he also gives us a systematic and academic approach to the game and to our playbook. Without him, I don't think we'd learn all of the things we have as quick.''

As for his own future, Smith said he's not sure how much longer he'll play.

But he's not thinking about retirement.

He still likes playing.

But he loves proving people wrong even more.

``People will say well, he got (1,000 yards) but he's lost a step and he's not that and he isn't this,'' Smith said. ``But there aren't too many 5-foot-9 receivers who are 33 years old that are getting 1,000 yards or were at the Pro Bowl last year.

``So I guess I'm doing OK. Not bad.''

Smith said he'll take time to savor this Sunday's game against San Diego as it serves as a homecoming of sorts. He grew up in inner city Los Angeles, so he'll have a rare opportunity to play in front of his parents and some friends.

As for where he ends up, Smith said that's a discussion for another day.

``When I'm done playing I'll sit on my porch with a little iced tea in my hand,'' Smith said. ``I will see where I end up when the end comes.''

And until then?

``I'm just going to keep spinning that ball,'' Smith said.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Game 61: Capitals at Panthers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 61: Capitals at Panthers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers

Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise, Fla.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Panthers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Panthers game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

The Capitals (34-19-7) take on the Panthers (26-25-6) Tuesday, February 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Florida.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Panthers game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Panthers
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Panthers game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Brooks Orpik

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

CAPITALS-PANTHERS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Need to Know: The most underrated Redskins events of 2017

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Need to Know: The most underrated Redskins events of 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, February 22, 20 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The underrated Redskin moments of 2017

Originally published 12/29/17

Sometimes in the NFL, something happens that grabs headlines and appears to be a momentous event that has ripple effects that will last all season and perhaps beyond. Other times something that is greeted with a yawn by fans and the media turns out to be something with lasting impact. Here, in no particular order, are three underrated events from 2017. Tomorrow we’ll look at three events that were overrated at the time they happened.  

Beating the Rams in Week 2—Nobody got particularly excited when the Redskins went to the LA Memorial Coliseum and beat a Rams team that had gone 4-12 in 2016. Sure, there was a belief that they were in good hands with Sean McVay but nobody saw them as anything better than a middle of the pack team. The win looks much more impressive now as the 11-4 Rams have locked up their division with a playoff game in their future.

Drafting safety Montae Nicholson—He was a fourth-round pick who had a shoulder injury and appeared to be a reach. But once he got on the field, the reasons the Redskins drafted him became apparent. His range and hard hitting had an immediate impact on the game. Nicholson had problems staying on the field and he will finish the year on IR so his impact this year was diminished. Regardless, he has a good chance of being part of the solution to a position with which the Redskins have had issues for years.

Ty Nsekhe’s injury—Against the Raiders in Week 3, Shawn Lauvao’s facemask had an issue and he had to leave the game for a play. In came Nsekhe without an opportunity to warm up. He suffered a core muscle injury and he had to undergo surgery. His absence didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but Trent Williams suffered a knee injury the next week and other offensive linemen were sidelined with injuries over the next several weeks. Nsekhe was inactive until the Week 10 game against the Vikings and he didn’t start a game until the Thanksgiving game against the Giants. He sure would have been useful to have in the lineup instead of T.J. Clemmings or Tyler Catalina.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 7
—NFL Draft (4/26) 63
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 199