I’ve written this post three times each time erasing it as I vacillate between anger and disgust. In case you haven’t heard Panthers WR Steve Smith was involved in what appears to be a pretty serious fistfight with CB Ken Lucas on the Panthers sideline during training camp Friday. Lucas was seen being carted off the field with a lump above his eye. No word yet how serious the injury to Lucas is but obviously we hope it isn’t serious. We also don’t know what initiated the brawl or who threw the first punch (but I would bet my next paycheck it was Smith). Apparently the fight was so intense that John Fox is considering suspensions for the instigator.
Of more concern is the impact on team unity at a time when players should be focused on football. With one punch that early team chemistry could be shattered. It would be easy to dismiss the altercation as a training camp skirmish if it happened on the field while the two were dueling head-to-head but this happened on the sideline between two players with guaranteed starting positions. Coach Fox will have to work overtime to get the team focus back on football after this one.
I for one am not surprised Steve Smith is involved. (Here’s the part I’m sure will piss off Steve Smith fans). You may recall last season when Smith gave an interview and discussed how he has matured a lot since his last clubhouse brawl and wanted to set a better example for his kids. I guess his kids weren’t around (but I’m sure there were plenty in attendance wearing #89 jerseys). All I can do is shake my head and “what a f-ing jerk”. Am I being unfair to Smith without knowing the details? Probably, but we know he is a hothead and that he has punched (and seriously hurt) a team mate in the past. You know what, I don’t care what Lucas may have said to him, you have to be man enough to say “F___ you” and walk away. I can’t tell you how pissed off I am about this and hope Smith is suspended.
Heck, forget that, trade him. Ok, so now I’m over-reacting. Am I really? If the Panthers suspend Smith for one or two games they now have spend the rest of training camp preparing to play without him. If you’re going to do that then why not just get rid of him for good. We could probably get a 1st rounder for him next season to replace the one we gave up for Jeff Otah. So you think we can’t win without him? I think we can and I think the “team” will be better off without him if he doesn’t do everything he can to repair the damage he has caused.
Steve Smith is one of the top WR in the NFL hands down and I would hate to lose his on-field production. But you know what, I was a Panther fan a long time before Steve Smith was drafted and I’ll be a fan a long time after he’s gone. If he can’t have a disagreement with a teammate without cold-cocking him then I say let him walk. The Panther organization is bigger than any one player and certainly bigger than a player with a ‘thug’ mentality.
What I hope happens is that sometime this weekend we see a sincere, heart-felt apology from Smith to the team, the fans and most importantly Ken Lucas. I also pray that Ken Lucas returns to the practice field at 100%. Only then do I think the team will be able to move on without any lingering effects. Anything less and we are going to end up talking about this for many weeks to come when we should be talking about the great season we think the Panthers are going to have.
Hat tip to The Sports Guru for breaking the news earlier today.