March 5 (UPI) -- Former Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Chris Smith, whose girlfriend was killed in a traffic accident last September, signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers, the team announced Thursday.
Smith and his girlfriend, Petara Cordero, were pulled over on the side of a Cleveland highway after Smith's car had a tire malfunction, which caused the vehicle to spin and hit a median, according to the Browns.
After Cordero exited the car without any major injuries, she was struck by an oncoming vehicle. According to a Cleveland police report obtained by the team, she was transported to Fairview Hospital and pronounced dead.
Police said Smith, who was driving the vehicle, wasn't impaired or injured. The other driver that struck Cordero admitted to drinking.
"It was tragic," Smith told the Panthers' official website Thursday. "People thought I was supposed to die, too. ... People were asking me, 'Are you going to play again?' In football and life, you are going to have adversity, but it's about how you respond to it. I feel like she would want me to continue playing, especially with the Panthers."
Cordero, 26, and Smith had a daughter together the month before the traffic accident. Smith was excused from the Browns' preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts to attend the birth.
Smith, 28, started two games for the Browns in the 2018 season, but recorded only one tackle in eight games after Cordero's death last year. The Browns eventually released him on Dec. 3.
Smith, who was selected in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Arkansas, recently decided that he wanted to continue his NFL career.
"I'm excited. It's a fresh start for everybody," Smith told the team's website. "I'm somebody that loves the game and loves to get after the quarterback from any position on the D-line."
Smith has also played for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals. He has compiled 68 total tackles, 8.5 sacks and six passes defensed in 60 career games between the Browns, Bengals and Jaguars.