Sports

Panthers vs. Giants means Steve Smith vs. Steve Smith

Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith doesn't think too much should be made of today's Steve Smith Bowl in Giants Stadium.

That's when the Panthers' Smith, long one of the NFL's game-breaking receivers, will be on the same field with the New York Giants' Steve Smith, who leads the NFC with 90 catches.

Technically, Carolina's Smith said, the Steve Smith issue is not accurate.

"Actually my real name isn't Steve Smith," Smith - whose birth name is Stevonne Smith - told reporters earlier this week. "(Steve) is the name I go by - that is the name that my dad has and people always called me that since I was a little boy. But my mom and my wife, all my family, call me by my birth name - that is really what I go by outside of football."

Still, the comparisons between the two Steve Smiths are obvious, especially in a season when the Giants' Smith has played well enough for him to shed his image of the "other" Steve Smith.

"He is doing a great job," Carolina's Smith said. "He might be a Pro Bowler. There is nothing that I can add to it or take away from it - it would be foolish (and) ... disrespectful. He has a Super Bowl ring. I don't."

New York's Smith emerged as the Giants' go-to receiver. His 90 receptions are a single-season franchise record. He has eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier (1,093) for the first time in his career. And he leads the NFL in third-down receptions with 36.

"He's gotten better each and every year," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of New York's Smith, a second-round draft pick in 2007 out of Southern Cal. "He's worked hard (at) his recognition of coverage. His ability and range, he catches the ball in a lot of different positions. He can work extremely well underneath (the secondary). Then he'll go down the field and make a big play because he knows how to put his body in the right positions.

"He spends extra time at his work and he's kind of a quiet young man. He works at his trade and anytime you can find a guy like that you're happy because he sets a great example for everyone else."

Panthers receiver Dwayne Jarrett has played on teams with both Smiths. He's been with Carolina's Smith for his three seasons in the NFL and was a teammate of the Giants' Smith at Southern Cal.

"They're two different people," said Jarrett. "(Carolina's) Steve is older, has a family. He's way more intense. (New York's) Steve is more laid back. That's the biggest difference."

Although New York's Smith led the Giants in receptions last season with 57, he didn't think his 10.1-yard average for 574 yards was enough. He wanted to make more of an impact.

"It's the first time I've gotten to 1,000 yards," he said. "I led the team in catches last year but putting up the yards is something I wanted to do. I've had more opportunities (with) being the starter for the whole season."

Carolina's Smith has not always felt that way this season. Still, the Panthers' Smith is closing in on his sixth 1,000-yard season (he has 922 yards after a nine-catch, 157-yard performance last week against Minnesota).

"He's a big-play guy," said the Giants' Smith, who made note of how the Panthers' Smith caught a touchdown pass Sunday against Antoine over Winfield. "He had a great catch the other night and he came back with a really nice ball that he caught in the end zone where you thought he might be decoying a little bit and then all of a sudden burst at the end and made a play at the top of the secondary."

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