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 ST. LOUIS (AP) -Now, the pressure is really on Tye Hill.
It's tough enough that the St. Louis Rams' second-year cornerback has to face a three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver in the season opener. Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers also has a chip on his shoulder from comments supposedly made by Hill after last year's game.
``He had a conversation with DeAngelo Williams about him shutting me down,'' Smith said Wednesday. ``DeAngelo told me and I've been kind of marinating on it for the whole year.''
Hill, the Rams' first-round pick last year, said he doesn't remember the conversation. Smith ended with four catches for 90 yards and had a 62-yard scoring reception in a 15-0 Panthers victory Nov. 11 at Carolina.
``I guess he's trying to call me out,'' Hill said. ``It's all good. That's what the NFL is all about, entertainment, and I'm looking forward to playing him.''
Smith has 38 touchdowns in his first six years in the league, only six shy of the franchise career record, on 30 receptions, six returns and two runs. He set the franchise single-season record with nine 100-yard receiving games in 2005, and though he was held back by a hamstring injury much of last year he still ended up with 83 catches for 1,106 yards.
On Wednesday, he told reporters in a conference call that he was shooting for 2,000 yards this year.
``It's the year to swing for the fence,'' Smith said. ``People may laugh at it, but what's wrong with having a goal that if I work hard enough that it's in possible reach?''
Rams coach Scott Linehan said controlling Smith would be a tall order.
``He's one of the best in all of football and just keeping him in check is a challenge,'' Linehan said. ``If you can keep him somewhat contained - I don't know if that's possible - it gives us a better chance to win.''
Key to that equation is Hill, who tied for the team lead with three interceptions as a rookie and started 10 games.
``I'm not going to say I have to point out this guy or that guy,'' Smith said. ``I'm just going out there and making plays. My job is to catch the ball and that's what I'll do and if the DB happens to get in the way then so be it.''
Hill is looking forward to the challenge. The Rams will have a pair of young cornerbacks to open the season, with third-year man Ronald Bartell starting on the right side while Fakhir Brown serves a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
``I'm glad he's ready to play,'' Hill said of Smith. ``I'm going to get his 'A' game, that's what I'm looking for, so I can play my 'A' game.''
Whether or not he said anything too inflammatory, Hill vaguely recalls telling Hall that Smith had played a good game and that ``I told him I was looking forward to playing him again.''
Talk is not part of his game, he said.
``My game is to go out and play,'' Hill said. ``I don't really get into jawing matches, because I'd get too tired.''
Notes:MLB Will Witherspoon returned to practice after missing one day with what he described as a stomach virus. ... OG Richie Incognito (high ankle sprain) and WR Drew Bennett (quad) were held out for the second straight day.
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