CHARLOTTE -- The NFL trade deadline often comes and goes without headline-making deals, and that was again the case for the Carolina Panthers.
As the Panthers continued to win, "rumors" continued to grow about the possibility of landing help at receiver. Detroit's Calvin Johnson sure would have looked good in a different shade of blue. Chicago's Alshon Jeffrey would have been a nice fit again in the Carolinas. But in the NFL, there's a huge chasm between dreaming about trades and actually making them happen, even if they make sense.
Could the Panthers use help at receiver? Of course. But instead of giving up a piece of their future, they'll try to improve with who they have in the present.
"I think our group is progressing very well," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I like the group. I think if you couple that with the tight end group and our ability to throw the football now and then the threat of our quarterback, whether he's going to hand it off, he's going to throw it or he's going to run it himself. I think all together I like where we are. I like the formula."
--Steve Smith Sr. may or may not have played his final down in the NFL this weekend. Either way, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera hopes his organization's all-time leading receiver ends up retiring in Carolina one day.
"As a Panther? Eventually? Yeah, when he gets an opportunity," Rivera said Tuesday when asked if he wanted to see Smith end his career as a Panther. "He's deserved it; he's earned that opportunity."
Smith tore his Achilles tendon in the Ravens' win over the Chargers Sunday, ending his season, one he's repeatedly said would be his last. But few can see the fiery Smith going out like this. Of course, no one saw his playing days in Carolina coming to an end the way they did.
If he does end up retiring with the Panthers, it would likely be ceremonious, not a situation where he's back on the field. Some hurt feelings need to be mended, too. But at least one of his former bosses sounds willing to hug it out.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he's one of the first players from this organization to make the Hall of Fame," Rivera said. "I was very sad to hear (about Smith's injury). I don't know what he's going to decide next year, but whatever it is, just hold on. If he does come back, he'll be solid again."
Notes: Center Ryan Kalil (ankle), who missed his first game since 2012, worked out on the field briefly before Monday night's game, but he was back in a walking boot as he watched the game from the sideline. ... Linebacker Shaq Thompson (knee), who missed his second straight game, tossed passes during pregame. The first-round pick could be ready to return in time to face the Packers.