Steve Smith left Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter with a knee injury. He returned for one play. Then left again, and did not return.
The Panthers won on Sunday, 17-13. The win gave the Panthers (11-4) sole possession of first place in the NFC South, clinched a playoff berth, and put the Panthers in the drivers' seat toward their first division title since 2008.
But the possibility of being without their best wide receiver is a sobering reality. One that could alter the course of this team's potential.
"When I planted to jump for the ball, I felt a pop," Smith said after the game. "I don't have any [prior] knee problems, so I've never experienced that before."
Smith will undergo an MRI on Monday. The results of that MRI of course carry a lot of weight for the Panthers possibilities of playoff success.
"We all know how much Steve Smith has meant to not only this team, but this franchise," Cam Newton said of his main target after the game. "We know he's a warrior, you know, he's going to battle back, and bounce back, and help this team in any way possible."
"We're all praying and hoping for a speedy recovery for him."
The Panthers play at Atlanta on Sunday, December 29th. A win will clinch the first division title for the Panthers since the 2008 season.