STEVE SMITH SR.
The 36-year-old Ravens wideout, who spent his first 13 seasons with the Panthers and remains their all-time leading receiver, still believes in celebrating to the beat of his own drum.
DAN PATRICK:You're closing in on 1,000 catches and 14,000 yards. Do you think you'll reach the Hall of Fame?
STEVE SMITH SR.: I think my chances have increased a little bit. But I just enjoy playing. I'm 5'9", and I never would have thought I'd be going into my 16th year in the NFL. I'm appreciative of that.
DP:How are the Broncos different now from when you and Baltimore saw them in Week 1?
SS: They're not as fresh. But the playoffs make you ratchet it up a lot, even though your legs may not be under you. If you watched [Denver linebacker] Von Miller and their defense [in the AFC championship game], they were buzzing around against the Patriots like it was Week 1.
DP:How do you stop Cam Newton?
SS: He is a new age quarterback. He throws and runs, kind of like [the 49ers' Colin] Kaepernick. Newton brings an element you cannot account for. The underlying story of Super Bowl 50 will be the old, traditional gunslinger versus the new age gunslinger.
DP:Why is Newton polarizing?
SS: Cam Newton, Odell Beckham Jr., all of these new athletes who are coming in ... I like to call them Generation Y: Why not? Why can't I do it? [The reaction to them is] a little bit [because of their] arrogance and—I hate to say it—possibly the color of their skin. A great example is Richard Sherman [after his on-air tirade following the 2014 NFC title game]. Automatically, people started calling him a thug. The definition of a thug is a murderer and thief. Last time I checked, Richard Sherman went to Stanford and was neither.
DP:You liked to celebrate. Did you get negative feedback?
SS: Oh, yeah. [I dance.] People said that I should act like I had been there before. It's a game. Why do I have to enjoy my journey according to your standards? It's my walk. I'll do it how I want to do it.
DP:What's the difference between celebrating and taunting?
SS: [Celebrating] is what Cam Newton and the Panthers are doing. Taunting is when you get in someone's face immediately after the guy is getting up. If you walk away from the guy and dance, then you're just enjoying that moment.
DP:At their peak, would you have rather caught passes from Cam or Peyton?
SS: Peyton Manning at his peak had [Colts wide receiver] Marvin Harrison. If you put Marvin Harrison on the other side, I ain't catching any passes—Marvin Harrison was catching all of them. Ask Reggie Wayne how that worked out his first couple of years in Indianapolis.
TNT's Charles Barkley thinks Auburn should have paid fellow alum Cam Newton. "If we gave him $200,000, that was a good investment," Barkley told me. "I wish my financial people had investments like that." ... Packers linebacker Clay Matthews didn't believe the erroneous reports that quarterback Aaron Rodgers and actress Olivia Munn were engaged. "When the media comes out first and says Rodgers is engaged," Matthews said, "I'm thinking 99% of the time, he's not." ... Super Bowl--winning QB Jim McMahon talked about how he's treating his concussion-related symptoms: "I have my own medicinal [marijuana] card in Arizona. I was eating about 100 [painkillers] a month when I retired [in 1997]. I had to get off that. I'd rather have something that grows from Mother Earth."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
SIMON BRUTY FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (SMITH)
KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (BARKLEY)
ANDREW WEBER/GETTY IMAGES (MATTHEWS)
RICK BOWMER/AP (MCMAHON)