Steve Smith close to making return for Panthers

Steve Smith continues to point to the season opener Sept. 12 against the New York Giants as his projected date to return from that inconvenient broken left arm he suffered playing flag football.

He’s been working on his conditioning in training camp with the Carolina Panthers, and an offense that has done next to nothing in preseason is going to need its biggest star.

“Have not diverted from the path at hand, which is Week 1 in New York,” Smith told Darin Gantt of the Charlotte Observer. “And that’s been the focal point, and that’s kind of where it’s going to start.

“This Monday, cardio-wise is a lot better than last Monday, significantly,” he said. “That’s a relief mentally for me. That’s a little bit more reps I can go before coming out cardio-wise, so that was good. Last week I was hurting, my lungs were hurting, chest was burning. It was like the last thousand meters” of a marathon.”

It is unlikely Smith will play on Thursday in the preseason finale at Pittsburgh. The Panthers need him badly as the lone threat in their passing game, and they’re fortunate there have been no setbacks to this point.

Carolina has a talented pair of running backs and the Panthers are going to face a slew of eight-man fronts until quarterback Matt Moore and Smith can prove to be an effective combination. Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to do much work toward that goal this summer.

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