Steve Smith injury: Panthers WR will not return due to knee

Streeter Lecka

The Carolina Panthers will be without their top wide receiver moving forward.

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith left the game on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints with an apparent knee injury, and will not return according to Bryan Strickland of Panthers.com.

Smith planted on a third down pass when his left leg gave way. It appeared to be a hamstring injury, but the veteran wide receiver began immediately clutching at his knee while trainers examined him, and he was noticeably in pain. He has not missed a game in over three years, but the nature of the injury is concerning, since his leg gave way in a non-contact situation.

He attempted to return to the field in the second quarter, but came up limp after one snap and returned to the team's locker room. The Panthers are forced to play without their top receiver and are turning to Ted Ginn and Brandon LaFell on the outside, leaning heavily on tight end Greg Olsen to fill the void.

Smith is in his 13th season with the Panthers, and despite slowing this year he's still vital to the Panthers passing attack. He is Cam Newton's favorite target, and a key player on third down. It remains to be seen how Carolina will respond in their passing game without Smith.

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