Smith sent home by Panthers after hurting Lucas in sideline fight

Updated: August 2, 2008, 1:39 PM ET
Associated Press

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith was sent home from training camp Friday after he punched teammate Ken Lucas at practice, leaving the starting cornerback holding an ice pack to his left eye before he was carted to the locker room.

[+] EnlargeSmith-Lucas fight
AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer/David T. Foster IIIPanthers staff members work to separate Steve Smith and Ken Lucas after the players' sideline altercation turned ugly Friday in training camp.

Panthers coach John Fox said Smith and Lucas returned to Charlotte, about 80 miles away, after the fight. Neither player was present for the team's second practice Friday night.

The Panthers didn't provide an update on the extent of Lucas' injuries and club officials declined to say if the volatile Smith, the team's top receiver, would be suspended.

"We're going to handle this matter internally," general manager Marty Hurney said.

While training camps often include shoving matches between teammates, this melee occurred on the sidelines and after both players had taken off their helmets in a break for starters during a special teams drill. It was unclear what provoked the fight. While the two have routinely jawed at each other in practice since Lucas signed with Carolina in 2005, they've never come to blows in view of reporters.

"When that happens on the field, usually guys have helmets on," quarterback Jake Delhomme said. "But this happened on the sidelines, so it probably wasn't a good idea."

[+] EnlargeSmith-Lucas fight
AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer/David T. Foster IIIReceiver Steve Smith is restrained by Jon Beason after his scrape with Ken Lucas. Both Smith and Lucas have left camp.

When attention turned from the field to the fight, several players and Fox rushed to the scene. Fox tried to separate the two, but it took linebacker Jon Beason to pull Smith off Lucas.

Lucas walked to a tent, holding a hand to his face while accompanied by a trainer. Smith was then escorted there by receiver Muhsin Muhammad to talk to Lucas.

"Steve was probably a little remorseful for what happened," Muhammad said. "He was trying to apologize, so I was walking with him just to be there."

After being treated for several minutes, Lucas walked to a nearby cart and was taken to the locker room.

Smith spent several minutes talking to kicker John Kasay on an adjacent field before he was escorted to the locker room by Hurney as practice continued.

"Anytime something like that happens you're obviously disappointed," Fox said. "It's part of football and you deal with it."

The coach had an extended talk with the team after the workout. Delhomme said Fox warned the players not to retaliate against Smith.

"I don't anticipate this having any lingering effect on this team," Delhomme said. "We were talked to and things were squashed. That's it. That's the way it is. It happened. There will be no retaliation by anybody on anything. When you look at the schedule we don't play the Panthers this year. So we need to be smart when we're out there."

Suspension For Smith?

Steve Smith is the Panthers' best player, but he hurt a teammate in a fight -- and it wasn't the first time. This is a critical decision-making time for Panthers coach John Fox and GM Marty Hurney, Pat Yasinskas writes. Blog

A three-time Pro Bowl pick, Smith has had trouble controlling his temper. He was suspended for a game in 2002 after punching teammate Anthony Bright during a film session. Smith received counseling for anger management, and a lawsuit filed by Bright was eventually settled out of court.

Despite a history of poorly timed penalties following angry outbursts, Smith signed a contract extension last year through the 2012 season that makes him one of the NFL's highest-paid receivers.

Smith's agent, Derrick Fox, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

On the second day of training camp Smith complained that reporters have dwelled on his past, and that he's a different person now.

"When I was 22 I was a different guy, so I'm not trying to spin anything," Smith said Sunday. "You spend two hours with somebody and now you know them, that's not the case."

Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Smith could be suspended without pay for up to four games for conduct detrimental to the team.

A possible suspension to Carolina's top playmaker cast a shadow over the team Friday.

"Obviously everybody is going to be waiting to see what the repercussions are from this event," Muhammad said. "I'm just praying that we rally together as a team, because obviously there's going to be some adversity here. The focus is not where it needs to be right now.

"I'm hoping we can all come together as a team, as a family, and are able to put this behind us."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press