The sports world watched with shock and a little sadness (except for Patriots’ faithful) the benching of Eli Manning and collectively smh’d as the NY Giants’ quarterback got emotional while discussing the decision with media.
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) November 28, 2017
Every season, players who have given their all to franchises – who have been staples on the field, in the locker room and the community – are unceremoniously and sometimes disrespectfully disposed of by teams that no longer see their usefulness. I get it. It’s rare that an athlete gets to leave the game on his/her own terms. These abrupt departures are often chalked up to being “part of the business” as everyone moves on to the latest and greatest attraction. But just because that’s how it’s always been, doesn’t mean it’s how it should be and it doesn’t mean that franchises can’t go back and right the wrong when breakups like this happen.
While watching all of this I couldn’t help but think about Steve Smith, a fixture in the Panthers locker room for 13 years, who was cut by the team in March of 2014. Fans were livid, players were shocked and even the media openly frowned upon the move. Smith, the 5’9″ receiver who started out as just a special teams guy but blossomed into one of the best receivers in the game, was discarded like a scrub.
A lot of things have changed in three years – most notably the firing of Dave Gettleman, the former Panthers’ general manager who ultimately made the decision to release Smith – and the return of Marty Hurney, who was GM for the majority of Smith’s time in Carolina.
So, is now the time for the Panthers to right this wrong? Is now the time for #89, who retired from the NFL in January, to mend the fences so he can officially and rightfully leave the game as a Carolina Panther? Anyone who’s followed Smith’s career knows he is not one to let go of a grudge, but it shouldn’t be up to him to fix this. This is the responsibility of the franchise. You’d be surprised what a sincere apology will get you, and that’s where Richardson and Rivera should start. Because it just ain’t right for Steve to retire a Raven.