When Shi Smith was selected by the Panthers in the 6th round of this year’s NFL Draft, some thought he’d have a long-shot at making the team’s 53-man roster. Wide receiver was one of the team’s deepest positions during training camp and Smith would have earn every bit of his spot. That he did, right his his backyard at Wofford – impressing many with his performance at training camp.
The Union, SC native suffered a shoulder injury during the Panthers’ preseason finale against the Steelers. Smith was expected to be sidelined several weeks, but after missing just week one of practice, he was listed as a full participant in week two. Shi was inactive the first five games, but was thrust into action in the Panthers’ week-six loss to the Vikings – catching both of his targets, including a short pass in which he gained 20 yards after the catch.
The rookie out of South Carolina is expected to see even more action against the Giants, with fellow rookie receiver Terrace Marshall out with a concussion and veteran receiver Alex Erickson questionable with the same injury. But just like he was on his first NFL play regular season play, Smith will be ready when his number is called against the Giants.
“My plate is full and I’m ready for it,” Smith said when asked about preparation for his increased usage this week. “It’s been a lot of early mornings and late nights. I’m watching film more than I ever have and going over the plays more than I ever have.”
“Shi’s going to play a bunch,” head coach Matt Rhule said Friday. “He’s going to be active. Last week I think he played 15 snaps and I expect that number to be where it was or go up a little more.”
Going from being inactive, to the team’s third receiver behind DJ Moore and Robby Anderson in a matter of weeks is a turnaround many don’t expect, but in the league it’s next man up and Shi, who may also return kicks, is ready to make plays to help the team win.
“Just becoming the third receiver. Not knowing it was going to be this early -I’m just going and make the plays that I’m supposed to make and help the team.”