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Ron Rivera said Panthers were worried about Steve Smith's speed, health

Steve Smith

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Steve Smith (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh should personally thank Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera while the two remain in town for the NFL owners meetings.

That's because a fired-up Smith is an effective Smith.

Rivera echoed on Wednesday what GM Dave Gettleman said earlier in the week: that releasing Smith was a football decision. His declining physical skills were a big reason why the Panthers moved on from Smith, despite no obvious replacements on the roster, Rivera said.

"He doesn't have the top-end speed like he used to, but he still has good speed," Rivera said.

As noted by the Charlotte Observer, Rivera also added several times that Smith likely will need to cool down his well-noted approach to practice, which is legendarily intense.

Although Smith has battled injuries over the past few seasons, he hasn't missed a lot of games. Smith missed one game last season in Week 17 but returned in time for the Panthers' playoff loss to the 49ers, scoring a touchdown. 

Cutting the lifetime Panther and franchise icon has not been a popular decision. Rivera said he thought Smith was not done as a player but that this was the time to move on.

"Steve will still find ways to make plays," Rivera said. "And as far as football decisions go, we have to move on eventually. This was an opportunity to do it."

And an opportunity to fire up Smith, who notoriously uses everything negative said about him as motivation. Harbaugh might have received some free kindling with those Rivera comments, even as harmless as they appear to the rest of us. Oh, and the Panthers and Ravens face each other next season.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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