Smith: Party season over for Dwayne Jarrett
By JOEDY McCREARY
AP Sports Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Steve Smith welcomed back an old friend who’s rejoining him in Carolina and issued a stern warning for an underachieving teammate.
The Panthers’ star receiver praised the free-agent signing of Muhsin Muhammad on Monday, then delivered harsh words for teammate Dwayne Jarrett whose disappointing rookie season was followed by an offseason charge of driving while impaired.
When asked if the embattled Jarrett was due for a coming-out party, Smith said, “You know, the party session is actually over. This is the NFL. You make plays. You’re here to play football. You do the party scene at your own discretion, but on Sundays, we’re here to play football. If you can’t play football, you won’t be playing with the Carolina Panthers or any NFL team.
“So, this isn’t a poke at anybody,” he said, speaking at a charity golf tournament hosted by fellow NFL players Torry and Terrence Holt. “That’s just the way it is. You know, you produce, you’re in. You don’t produce, you’re out.”
For years, the Panthers have searched for a second capable receiver to relieve the double teams Smith faces seemingly every week.
Team executives hoped Jarrett could develop into that kind of threat when they drafted him last year in the second round, but he never cracked the starting lineup, played in just seven games and caught six passes for 73 yards with no touchdowns.
Then, when he reported last month for the team’s offseason conditioning, Jarrett was arrested after police said he crossed the center line and ran a red light in the Charlotte suburb of Mint Hill. The police report said Jarrett’s blood-alcohol level was .12, above North Carolina’s legal limit of .08 for driving. He pleaded not guilty to the DWI charge and faces a June 23 court date.
Now the Panthers hope one of the best players from their past can mentor Jarrett and become a quality No. 2 option to Smith, a three-time Pro Bowl selection wh o had a team-leading 87 catches for 1,002 yards and seven touchdowns. Despite that, he couldn’t lead Carolina to the playoffs, which the Panthers missed for the second straight year.
Muhammad, who turns 35 in May, spent nine seasons with Carolina after he was picked in the second round of the 1996 draft and holds club records with 578 receptions, 7,751 yards receiving and 44 TDs. Released by the Panthers three years ago in a salary-cap move, Muhammad had 40 catches for 570 yards with Chicago last season before the Bears cut him.
“A lot of people look at age, but I think he’s like fine wine,” Smith said. “I think he’s just aged and done a great job. He’s kept himself in shape. Physically, he looks better coming back the second time than he did leaving, so that just shows how tremendous and how competitive he is, how willing he’s able to do (anything) and stay in the game.”
Smith also praised quarterback Jake Delhomme’s offseason work as he recovers from an e lbow injury that cost him the final three months of a disappointing 7-9 season.
“He looks good _ I’ve seen him throw a little bit,” Smith said. “He feels strong. … He’s starting to look muscular, which is a plus for quarterbacks. You know, some of them aren’t the most athletic ones, and some of them are. Jake actually has a (pectoral) muscle, so I’m pretty proud of that.”