NFL Notebook: Fox made right move
By Mike Cranston
SPARTANBURG, S.C. ó When Steve Smith punched teammate Ken Lucas in the face during a break in practice last week, Carolina Panthers coach John Fox faced equally undesirable choices.
Suspending the team’s top offensive player could put the Panthers in an early hole when Fox’s job may be on the line after missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons. But letting Smith off without punishment might lead to Fox losing the respect of his team.
A day later, Fox announced Smith was suspended without pay for the first two regular-season games.
While it puts the Panthers in the position of possibly starting 0-2, retired safety Mike Minter said Tuesday he believes it was the only way Fox could keep the team intact.
“You’ve got 16 games, so you’re going to have to have your whole team with you for those 16 games,” said Minter, who retired last summer after 10 seasons with the Panthers, including five under Fox. “If a guy breaks the team rules, whatever those team rules are, you have to punish him accordingly.
“He can’t look at it say, ‘Well, if I suspend my best player we’re going to lose a couple of games, maybe.’ He can’t look at it like that.”
But Fox’s work isn’t done. With Lucas sidelined up to three weeks and facing surgery to repair the nose broken by Smith’s fist, hard feelings remain, even after Smith apologized to the team in a meeting Sunday night.
“I’m nobody’s judge. We put that in coach Fox’s hands,” safety Chris Harris said when asked if the two-game suspension was just. “We let him make the decision. What’s happened happened, and we’re moving on from there.”
Minter said his former coach will have to closely monitor the team for several weeks.
“Every day he’s going to have to get the pulse of the team, making sure guys are feeling good and talking to him,” Minter said. “He’s got to make sure this thing gets squashed. You can’t act like it didn’t happen. That’s the worst thing to do.”
Smith returned to practice Monday and will remain with the team until his suspension goes into effect the week before the season opener at San Diego on Sept. 7. He’ll also miss the home opener a week later against Chicago.
LAS VEGAS ó The lawyer for the man accused of shooting three people after a strip club melee involving NFL player Adam Jones alleged Tuesday that Jones “completely fabricated” the story that led to the man’s arrest.
“This entire case rests upon the statement of Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones,” lawyer Jeffrey Segal told the judge who heard Arvin Kenti Edwards plead not guilty to charges that could put him in prison for the rest of his life.
“Pacman Jones’ story is completely fabricated,” Segal said outside court.
WESTMINSTER, Md. ó Kyle Boller’s 42 career starts won’t necessarily land him the job as Baltimore Ravens quarterback. His experience did, however, earn him the start in the preseason opener at New England.
At his first NFL training camp, coach John Harbaugh is staging an open competition to determine his first-string quarterback. Boller, second-year pro Troy Smith and rookie Joe Flacco will be judged on how they fare this month in training camp and in preseason games.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. ó Kyle Orton will start at quarterback for the Chicago Bears behind an injury-riddled offensive line in Thursday’s preseason opener against Kansas City.
Coach Lovie Smith announced his decision after Tuesday night’s practice, but cautioned against calling Orton the leader in his competition with Rex Grossman to start on opening day.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. ó The Denver Broncos will start the season without wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who was suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for three games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
Marshall was summoned to Goodell’s New York offices on July 18 to explain a series of off-the-field misdeeds over the past year, most notably his March 6 arrest on a domestic violence warrant filed by his former girlfriend in Atlanta.