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Muhammed/Smith (Steve) (1 Viewer)


Smith has Muhammad to thank for development


AP Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - For all the things Muhsin Muhammad did in his nine years with the Carolina Panthers , his greatest mark on the franchise may be how he helped along the development of receiver Steve Smith .

Muhammad took Smith under his wing when Smith joined the Panthers in 2001, paving the way for this year's breakout season. He taught Smith how to practice and how to prepare, how to run routes and how to be a professional.

It was critical mentoring that Smith badly needed. He was immature out of college, and often played with a chip on his shoulder.

"My hat's off to Steve, I think he has grown up a lot and I think Moose did have something to do with that," Carolina coach John Fox said Wednesday.

The mentor will meet his protege again this Sunday, when the Chicago Bears host the Panthers in the NFC divisional playoffs. Muhammad was released by Carolina during the offseason after negotiators couldn't agree on a new contract. Chicago signed him the next day.

Still close friends, there's no animosity between the two, even after Smith rewrote Carolina 's record books and passed Muhammad for seven franchise marks en route to his first All-Pro season.

"We talk on the phone and it's rarely about football stuff," Muhammad said. "We talk about things friends would talk about. We're good friends and there's a lot more than just football."

Smith started out with a limited role in Carolina 's offense as primarily a kick returner longing to be a receiver. With Muhammad 's help, he got his wish.

Smith went from 10 catches in his rookie season to 54 in 2002, his first year in Fox's offense. He cemented himself the next year, Carolina 's Super Bowl season, finishing with 88 catches for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns as he bypassed Muhammad to become the favorite target of quarterback Jake Delhomme .

He was poised for a monster year last season, when teams would have to choose between double teaming either him or Muhammad . But he broke his leg in the opener and missed the next 15 games.

He returned this year unsure of how productive he would be. He was coming back from a serious injury, and without Muhammad to draw some of his coverage, he would be the focus of most defenses.

Smith found a way to overcome all of it while rolling to 103 catches for an NFL-best 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns.

He was reluctant to discuss Muhammad on Wednesday.

"We went through that last time, I'm done with that," Smith said. "I mean Moose was a very intricate part of me playing, still is. But I'm not going to go through all that. It's old."

But in the days before their first meeting this season, a 13-3 Bears victory in November, Smith acknowledged Muhammad had helped him.

"When I came in here he was very instrumental in teaching me patience and understanding the game," Smith said. "He did that constantly and laid back sometimes when I was having a rough day. He had that big-brother mentality."

Muhammad was always there for Smith during the low points, such as his 2002 fight with a teammate during a film session that earned him a one-game suspension from the Panthers . Incidents like those are nonexistent these days, even with Muhammad no longer here to watch over him.

"Probably one of the things that I'm most proud of is that Steve is really maturing as a person," Muhammad said. "I think he's becoming a well-rounded person and I think that is more important than the athletic achievements."

Wasn't one of their more widely known young WRs cut a month or so ago?

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Good news for owners of Bradley, Berrian, and Gage.
Bradley will be a stud in the 2007 season. :thumbup: Assuming he has a decent QB throwing to him. A more developed Grossman or someone else.

Wasn't one of their more widely known young WRs cut a month or so ago?
Bobby Wade? He and his 10 fumbles deserved to be cut. A good mentor like Moose can't help a guy like Wade (who still dispalayed marginal talent in his 4th or 5th year in the NFL). Mark Bradley is the guy who Moose can help, as he already has the tools many NFL WR's can only dream of having.
Good thing for Moose that Smitty is his friend and not his enemy. Gawd help the teammate who tries to break down film of a segment of the game that includes Smith doing something wrong. :boxing:


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