He had a chance to show he deserved a new contract worthy of the No. 2 receiver for a championship-caliber team.
If anything, LaFell proved how much the Panthers (12-4) need Smith for their Jan. 12 playoff game against either Philadelphia, Green Bay or San Francisco.
He was targeted five times but had no catches in Sunday's 21-20 regular-season finale against the Atlanta Falcons.
When you're playing for a new contract, you have to make those plays. Smith would have. It's why he's gone from a kick returner in 2001 to the team's all-time leading receiver.
He gets open and makes clutch catches even when teams design their defense to stop him. His 19-yard catch on fourth-and-10 with the game on the line at Miami earlier this season is a prime example.
LaFell had a chance to be that guy on Sunday and was shut out.
That could be a good thing for Carolina when it comes time for negotiations. It's also important to note that Rivera has said he wants LaFell back, and the things LaFell does as a blocker can't be overlooked.
His block was key for DeAngelo Williams' 72-yard touchdown on a screen pass against theNew York Jets.
"Going forward, he’s obviously somebody you’d like to have,” Rivera said before Smith was injured. “You want him back on the team because of all the different things he does. He does more than just run routes.
Never accuse Newton of being biased. Like I always said: A writer can cover the team, be a fan of the team, and be critical of different aspects of the team when it is warranted.
Not that Newton's words come from a prayer book, but I think that it pretty much puts an exclamation on the LaFell question. LaFell is who he is; not a great receiver, good at times, average most of the time, but an excellent blocker.
You can glean what you want from the piece, but when I focus on Rivera's words in particular it sounds like even if LaFell is here next year, his role will be diminished. And rightly so.