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    Panthers suspend WR Steve Smith for first two games due to camp fight

    Panthers suspend Smith for first two games
    CHARLES CHANDLER
    cchandler@charlotteobserver.com
    Posted: Saturday, Aug. 02, 2008

    Panthers star receiver Steve Smith has been suspended for the team's first two regular-season games without pay for punching cornerback Ken Lucas in Friday morning's training camp practice in Spartanburg, breaking Lucas' nose.

    "What he did was wrong," Fox said of Smith. "We take it very serious. He's being punished severely. ... It's an act that's inexcusable and it can't happen."

    The Panthers open the season at San Diego on Sept. 7, then play at home against Chicago on Sept. 14.

    Fox, speaking after the team's Fan Fest scrimmage Saturday at Bank of America Stadium, said Smith will be able to practice and play in the preseason, then will prohibited to be around the team for two weeks starting Sept. 2, the Monday before the first game.

    "The suspension includes regular season games," said Fox. "Those are the ones they get paid in. That's the way we'll operate and that's the way the landscape is."

    The suspension was half of the maximum four games the Panthers were permitted to suspend Smith under the NFL collective bargaining agreement.

    The suspension is expected to cost Smith $205,882, the pro-rated portion of his $1.75 million annual salary covering two games.

    Smith and Lucas were debating a practice play on the sidelines when Smith punched Lucas while Lucas was on one knee. Numerous teammates and coaches converged on the scene to try to break up the melee. Eventually, linebacker Jon Beason pulled Smith away from Lucas.

    Lucas was later taken to a tent and an ice pack was placed on the left side of his face and left eye. Smith walked over, accompanied by Muhsin Muhammad, to apologize, but the damage was done.

    "He knows he made a mistake," said Fox. "Yet, he has to pay for it."

    Asked if he thought Lucas and Smith could get over the incident and work together as teammates, Fox said: "Time will tell. I believe so."

    Smith didn't attend Saturday's scrimmage, but quarterback Jake Delhomme said Lucas made an appearance in the locker room.

    Delhomme said Lucas was "overwhelmed."

    "Everybody came up to tell him hello," said Delhomme.

    Delhomme said he left Lucas a phone message "from the heart" Friday night.

    "A lesser player would not have come today," said Delhomme.

    Delhomme said Smith sent him a "remorseful" text message Friday night.

    A representative for Smith said before Fox's announcement that Smith had "no comment at this time." Lucas wasn't available for comment and his agent hasn't returned phone calls or e-mails.

    Fox said he doesn't know when Lucas will be able able to return to practice.

    "He's in good spirits, mentally and physically," Fox said of Lucas. "It could have been worse, not that a broken nose is not bad enough. But we'll treat it as we go."

    Muhsin Muhammad and D.J. Hackett are expected to be the starting receivers in Smith's absence. They worked with the first-team offense during the scrimmage.

    This is the second time Smith has been suspended for hurting a teammate in a fight. In 2002, he injured the face of fellow receiver Anthony Bright during an argument in a team meeting room and sat out one game. Bright filed a civil suit, which was settled out of court.

    Smith also attacked a teammate in the preseason of that same season.

    Smith subsequently underwent anger management counseling and, in recent years, had appeared to have his temper more under control.

    When asked if Smith now faces a zero-tolerance policy regarding attacking teammates, Fox said:

    "It's an internal matter. I'm not trying to be secretive. These are the kind of matters we'll keep in-house. We're doing it the right way.

    "We're going to help him. He's still ours. Yet, he is going to have conditions. He knows what those are and we're going to move forward."

    Since Smith is one of the NFL's top receivers, the suspension hurts the Panthers talent level starting out a season when Fox and the team are likely under pressure from management to have a successful year.

    "It's a t ough league and a tough situaition," said Fox. "You lose guys to injuries. The other guys have got to step up. It's an opportunity for them, and we've got to move forward."


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    Re: Panthers suspend WR Steve Smith for first two games due to camp fight

    Kudos to the Panthers organization for not treating their star receiver with kiddie gloves on this one. Sounds like he pretty much sucker punched the guy if Ken wasn't even standing up at the time.

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