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ORLANDO, Fla. - The Carolina Panthers believe Steve Smith lost "top-end" speed, one reason the franchise parted ways with its all-time leading receiver.

Speaking publicly for the first time since cutting Smith two weeks ago, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday they had to "move on eventually."

Rivera says Smith "didn't lose his speed. He lost his top end. Steve still fought and would still find ways to make plays. But as far as the football decision goes, we have to move on eventually. This was an opportunity to do it."

Smith signed a three-year contract with Baltimore about 24 hours after the Panthers released him.Rivera says the desire to give several young receivers an opportunity factored into the decision. He adds that the Panthers intend to select a receiver in the NFL draft in May.

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