Smith returns to Panthers after punching Lucas
By MIKE CRANSTON
AP Sports Writer
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith returned to practice Monday, three days after breaking teammate Ken Lucas’ nose in a sideline fight.
Lucas was also present for the morning workout, but did not practice as he recovers from his injury.
A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Smith initially worked with the first team, even though the team suspended him for the first two regular-season games without pay for punching the Panthers’ starting cornerback during a break in Friday’s practice.
Smith was sent home from training camp after the incident, and did not practice Saturday. He rejoined the team Sunday night and apologized in a team meeting.
An unusually subdued Smith walked down the hill from the locker room Monday morning with kicker John Kasay. When Smith realized he forgot his gloves, he dropped his helmet and ran back to the locker room. He returned five minutes later, and Lucas was about 10 steps behind him, wearing a jersey but no pads.
Moments later, Smith lined up wide left in the team’s first drill as quarterback Jake Delhomme handed off to running back DeAngelo Williams. Lucas, meanwhile, was on an adjacent field talking to coach John Fox while his defensive teammates went through a drill.
Smith will be allowed to practice and play in exhibition games before his suspension goes into effect a week before the Panthers’ season opener. Smith will miss games at San Diego on Sept. 7 and the home opener against Chicago on Sept. 14, leaving Carolina without its top playmaker as it tries to end a streak of two consecutive seasons out of the playoffs.
It’s uncertain when Lucas will return to practice.
It marks the second time Smith has been suspended for punching a teammate. He missed one game in 2002 after an altercation with practice-squad player Anthony Bright during a film session. Bright filed a civil suit which was eventually settled out of court, and Sm ith underwent counseling for anger management.
Smith and Lucas have routinely jawed at each other in practice, but never came to blows in view of reporters until Friday.