Steve Smith injury: Panthers WR says he will play vs. 49ers

Streeter Lecka

It's unclear if the Panthers will have their top receiver when they face San Francisco on Sunday.

The Carolina Panthers host the San Francisco 49ers for their first playoff game in five years, and veteran receiver Steve Smith says he will play despite a recent knee injury.

Smith sustained a sprained PCL in the Panthers' win over the New Orleans Saints in Week 16, and told Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer there's no guarantee he can play on Sunday. He was held out of the team's regular season finale against the Atlanta Falcons, and would have likely missed the Wild Card round had the Panthers been forced to play.

The latest diagnosis is less bullish than the statement Smith made on his personal Instagram account Sunday night, in which the 34-year-old receiver said "playoffs here I come." He noted he was running without pain for the first time since sustaining the injury.

Cam Newton has struggled without his No. 1 wide receiver, leaning on Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn to fill the void, largely unsuccessfully. If Smith is unable to play, it will have a huge impact on the Panthers' ability to beat San Francisco on Sunday.

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