Q:Is there a process to making sure you're back to where you were, or does it feel like a bye week where you step right back into things?
SMITH:"I think that kind of happened last week. The nice thing was, I got to practice all week, go out there, be in the pads and wear a helmet. That's the progression that normally takes place. It's nice to have gotten that done last week and feel like I can move forward like a normal week."
Q:You were out there throwing pregame. Was that part of the process too?
SMITH:"Yeah we had planned that. Obviously, the day before a game, we don't do much either as well as the couple days after. I knew I was going to have a few days off so I wanted to take advantage of that time there Sunday morning, get out, have a good workout and take advantage of it."
Q:Now that it's over, you're back and you guys won. Is it a good thing you didn't play last week?
SMITH:"You're playing a little bit of the 'What If?' game. I felt really good regardless. Coach made the decision early in the week and you go with it. Thankfully Nick [Foles] and the rest of the guys got the 'W' -- that is what's most important. Obviously I was doing everything I could to try and help in whatever way it is. I'm pumped and happy to get back and get going this week."
Q:When you look at Carolina's defense, what is similar and different from last year?
SMITH:"They're good. We didn't play them last year so we necessarily get a chance to scout them but it certainly jumps out on film defensively how strong they are. They've got a great group up front that's physical, they play fast and across the board, they're extremely well coached. They all know what they're doing. They've got a lot of veteran guys on that side that've played a lot of football at a high level. I do know they played a bunch of close games early and regardless of that, they're on a two-game win streak and feeling good."
Q:Is Luke Kuechly someone you account for?
SMITH:"Of course. As a quarterback, you get ready for all 11 on the other side of the ball. Him in the middle of the defense, he does a lot, communicates a lot and gets them lined up a lot. He's also all over the place. He makes a lot of tackles in the run game, has a great knack in the pass game. He goes wherever the ball goes."
Q:How big is it to have Spencer Ware pass the concussion protocol test and be available again?
SMITH:"He's a great player for us. It's awesome to have him back and get back in the mix."
Q:How's the ear? Any discomfort with the stitches?
SMITH:"The ear is not bad. It feels good. Luckily wherever it happened, there weren't tendon nerve endings. It's felt good."
Q:How well do you know Cam Newton?
SMITH:"Just a little bit."
Q:So I'm guessing you've heard all of his comments he's made about unfair hits to the quarterback?
SMITH:"Not all of it, but I've seen a little bit of it."
Q:He talked to Roger Goodell about it and you were one of the quarterbacks that Goodell said was actually bearing the brunt of more unfair hits than Cam was. How do you feel about that?
SMITH:"I don't know. Yeah, I have seen some of the hits in the pocket on him that certainly are very questionable -- blows to the head that are very questionable. I don't know if that's the case for every quarterback. Maybe you could turn on the film and find a lot of guys that it's happening to. I don't know. Certainly he's a big man and maybe that does play into it -- that he's not getting the same [treatment]. It's hard to tell. I haven't studies it. So it's hard to totally comment on it. Certainly I've heard a little bit of what he's saying. I have seen a couple of those hits in the pocket that I've seen called before so there's some merit to what he's saying."
Q:I'm sure you've got opinions on it. Is there anything you think the league or officials should do?
SMITH:"I don't know. It's hard. It's never going to be perfect. The referees aren't going to be perfect. There's that human element in there. That's part of the game and I think you want that as part of the game. Accountability is one of the main things this league talks about -- for everybody. Everybody is included on that. I do think, a little bit, if there's some of these that continue to happen, you want to see them get fixed .There needs to be some level of accountability."
Q:On the ear, are you going to wrap it up before you put a helmet on it?
SMITH:"I'm not planning on it but we'll see. I'll have the doctor take a look at it today and we'll come up with a plan."
Q:Does this team's win streak and winning attitude give you confidence on the road against a Carolina team that played in the Super Bowl last season?
SMITH:"I think it's the environment from Day One around here that Coach [Reid] talks about. Everybody is a part of this and everyone is going to play. It truly is next man up, that's not just talk. We roll that way, everyone mixes in and everybody plays -- going all the way back to OTAs. And you practice hard. We're going to go out there and that's the way it goes around here. I do think experience in big games against big opponents helps. We've got a group that over the last few years, has gotten more experience in those areas. You benefit from all of that."
Q:As a quarterback that can run and take off, do you think defenders take any extra zeal when coming after you?
SMITH:"I think I found that out 12 years ago in my first start that it's a different in this league. Defenders get such few shots on you. In the pocket you have some protection but if you get out of the pocket, defender's eyes get big. Sometimes you learn that the hard way. I don't mean that in a bad way, I just think all defenders -- they are going to try and get a good lick. That's the way the game is."
Q:Is there anything you can do to counter it?
SMITH:"Looking back, the late slide is not what you want to do. It puts you in such a vulnerable position. You'd be better to maintain being a football player and playing. There's just no protection there. You're going down, you don't have your legs under you and it's not a good position to be in. That's what I want to avoid for sure."
Q:As a fellow quarterback, what can you appreciate about Cam Newton's skillset?
SMITH:"The thing that jumps out to me is the fact that he can do a ton. I don't think there's ever been anyone like him playing quarterback in the NFL. And they let him do it all. Here's a guy that has a ton of strengths, a ton of tools and he gets to use them. We get to see the game change that way with him being a part of it, it's obviously cool to watch. As a running threat, certainly in the red zone, the touchdowns and stuff like that, he's doing stuff that nobody has ever done before."
Q:Chris Jones says that he's the same size as Cam Newton and he used to play quarterback himself. Are you worried about losing snaps to him?
SMITH:"I'm sure Chris said that [laughing]. He is though. If you ever have the chance to be around Cam, he's a big man, a real big man."
Q:I'm talking about Chris Jones.
SMITH:"I know. Chris is a big man as well. I haven't seen him throw a football but he does fancy himself as a good athlete. Who knows."
Q:As a team, what will it mean to get Justin Houston back?
SMITH:"You're talking about one of the elite players in this league -- especially when it comes to getting after the quarterback. That's such a priority for every NFL team -- whether it's getting to the quarterback or protecting him. To have him back, his presence and leadership and his energy is something everyone feeds off of. It will be good to have him back on the field with us."
Q:Can you talk about the Panthers' defensive line? How long have you watched Star Lotulelei play going back to his time at Utah? Is this a guy you've watched?
SMITH:"I know a little bit. We never played together. Going back there and watching them play at Utah, you always keep an eye on those guys as they go on. He's certainly a really, really talented and elite player inside. He's unique in some of his strengths inside there -- especially when getting after the passer. Hopefully I only see him before and after the game."