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News » Carolina Panthers Inside Slant 2008-08-14

Carolina Panthers Inside Slant 2008-08-14

Carolina Panthers Inside Slant 2008-08-14
The Panthers seemed to be putting the Steve Smith fiasco behind them.

Smith, suspended for two games after sucker-punching teammate Ken Lucas in the face and breaking his nose during the first week of training camp, returned to practice last Monday.

Although several defensive players were upset by Smith's actions, there has been no retaliation on Smith in practice. (He is allowed to practice and play in preseason games)

Quarterback Jake Delhomme said the team has done a "fantastic job" of putting the incident behind them, and it seemed to show in Carolina's 23-20 preseason overtime win over the Indianapolis Colts.

"That was a rough deal and everybody knows that," Delhomme said. "I really truly believe we have the right group of guys in the right areas to get everything out in the open. Guys talked and Steve knew he did wrong."

Delhomme credits Lucas with helping the team heal.

"I think the big thing out of all of it was Ken Lucas. For him to get up here and (talk about it), I think guys got to release a lot of emotions by listening to Ken and feeling how he felt," Delhomme said. "But things have gone smooth. Those are times where you can make or break a team. There (can be) anger and whatnot, but there hasn't been any of that. I think you see it on the practice field. Guys are still working and still battling and I think that is a great sign. It really and truly is."

Smith called himself a "fallen man" when he addressed the media last week at training camp.

In a four-minute statement to reporters, Smith offered no defense for his actions that resulted in a two-game suspension from the Panthers. He categorized his decision to throw a punch at Lucas as "asinine." Smith did not take questions.

"I will not put myself into a position where I have to defend myself, to state my side of the story. There's no side," Smith said. "There's only one side, a lack of judgment on my part. That's really all I have to say. I have no excuse. All I have (now) is the opportunity to gain the respect of my fans, to gain the respect of my family, gain the respect of my co-workers and gain the respect of the organization. And also (gain the respect of) the peers that I play against as well. That's what I'm going to do."

Lucas will miss at least another week of action.

Both players refused to discuss the details of why an argument on the sidelines amplified into a fight with Smith eventually throwing a punch at Lucas, who was resting on one knee. Lucas said tension between them has been running high for the last four years because both are "ultra-competitive" players.

"We both hate losing," Lucas said. "He expects to catch every ball and I expect to defend every ball. When you have those two types of individuals, something has to give."

Smith took full responsibility for the fight.

"I'm a fallen man," Smith said. "I'm a man that made a mistake."

He also vowed to mend fences with Lucas, his teammates, coaches and fans.

"I plan to mend the bridges that I've burned and help rebuild the bridge if I need to all by myself," Smith said. "And not do it in a spiteful way, but do it with the labor and the sound mind that God gives me. I'm not going to get into who's right, who's wrong. I'm completely wrong. It was an asinine decision. And I'll move forward better than I probably have ever had to. It's the first time in my life that I really haven't forgiven myself."

However, Lucas has.

He said he shook Smith's hand on Monday and is ready to move on.

"I'm sure he regrets the actions he took, but I would be less of a man if I didn't forgive him," Lucas said. "I go to Bible school every week and for me not to forgive him I'd be just wasting my time in Bible school."

However, Lucas added that he and Smith still need to sit down and talk about a way to fix things on the practice field.

"We still have some more things to talk about as far as co-existing on the same field, the same team, while still being productive and helping this team win this year," Lucas said. "Only two men can do that, and I feel like we have what it takes in order to do so."

Smith, who was suspended once before in 2002 when he hit teammate Anthony Bright in a film room altercation, is well aware of the damage he's done to image.

"I know I've disappointed a lot of people," he said. "But I will not allow this moment in the book of life to define me, despite what people may write or say. I made a bad decision. I accept the responsibilities of my actions."

Smith addressed his teammates at a private team meeting at Wofford College. Safety Chris Harris described Smith's apology as "very emotional."

"We accepted it and we're moving on," Harris said. "We're not looking in the past. We have our eyes looking forward. It's like a DB (defensive back). If a bad play happens you can't keep focusing on it or it will hurt you down the road. That was a speed bump in training camp. But the car is in drive. We're not going backwards."

CAMP CALENDAR: The Panthers broke camp Aug. 13.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 15, 2008

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Curtis Deloatch Name: Curtis Deloatch
Position: CB
Age: 26
Experience: 5 years
College: North Carolina A&T
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