It sounded like a sucker punch. Two guys standing on the sidelines at the Carolina Panthers training camp on Friday. A disagreement over a practice play turned into a punch to Ken Lucas’ face from Steve Smith.
The result is a broken nose.
Coach John Fox called it “inexcusable.” His final decision was to suspend Smith for the first two regular season games. He will be allowed to remain with the team through training camp and participate in preseason games.
Missing those games versus San Diego and Chicago will mean a loss of $205,882 for Smith.
As expected, the net is abuzz today. Message boards are lit up with discussions of what the team should do next. Even our nemesis blog The Landry Hat threw around a thought or two on what the team should do ridiculously calling Steve Smith a terrorist.
I made light of this situation on Friday, yes. I took some heat for that.
After receiving news that this wasn’t exactly a heat of the moment thing where two guys had been doing a little hard work on the field, I must tell you, I’ve reconsidered.
What Steve Smith did was serious. We may never know all the details since cameras weren’t pointed in that direction to catch this incident on video. Frankly, all we’ll ever know is what coach Fox, Smith or Lucas choose to tell us.
As for Smith, we are told that he sent a remorseful text message to Jake Delhomme Friday evening. Fox said on Friday “He knows he made a mistake. Yet, he has to pay for it.”
The payment Smith is making is two games, and a bundle of money. Whether Lucas presses charges is another matter, though that is unlikely.
The problem is that we have seen this kind of behavior before from Steve Smith. In 2002 he punched Anthony Bright in a team meeting. A civil suit was filed but settled out of court.
There are emotions with these players, yes. They get tired and overheated during practice sessions. Most importantly, the pressure to play well and succeed on the field is enormous. But none of these things excuse what Smith did – sucker punch or not.
“It’s an internal matter. I’m not trying to be secretive. These are the kind of matters we’ll keep in-house. We’re doing it the right way,” said Fox.
“We’re going to help him. He’s still ours. Yet, he is going to have conditions. He knows what those are and we’re going to move forward.”
Is the right way or the only way to deal with this to suspend Smith for two games? Is there more punishment coming? Should the team consider trading him? (Yes, I brought up the “T” word.)
The Panthers are dealing with a hot head, no doubt. He’s a great player but it appears that he occasionally loses his temper and needs to learn to cool himself down. A terrorist as The Landry Hat suggests? Hardly! Don’t get me started again. But a high strung guy who can’t reel himself in when necessary? Maybe.
How do you deal without your best player on the field when your first game of the season is a west coast trip to play a great San Diego team? What do you do when your first home game comes against a Chicago team that you should beat easily?
Teams deal with adversity. It is more likely than not that problems occur in practices behind closed doors that we never know about. This one became public and was too serious to ignore
Without Steve Smith in the lineup, D.J. Hackett will be inserted into the starting lineup with Muhsin Muhammad. If a trade were made, this would be a preview of things to come.
I, for one, would be opposed to a trade of our best player. If this punishment and handling of the situation internally as Fox put it doesn’t settle him down other actions will become necessary.
Another thing I don’t necessarily buy into is some of the PC, psycho babble, Dr. Phil stuff that is so prevalent in our society today. Anger management? Yeah, it can help but remember Smith has been through that before years ago.
Start with discipline. That’s where we are now. Let him sit at home in Charlotte and cool off for a while. Let him go without a couple of paychecks. When he comes back, sit him down, talk to him and tell him, without hesitation, that another outburst like that and he can face Roger Goodell and a judge when charges are filed.
Take what happened Friday seriously, unlike what I did not long after the news broke, and continue to do so. Call it whatever you want – a zero-tolerance policy – but enforce that policy no matter who violated the rule.
Had this been some practice squad player he would probably be looking for employment elsewhere. Instead, this was Steve Smith. Is that a double standard? Yes. Just keep in mind that in the NFL players are viewed like stocks. They are commodities, assets. You would never just send your greatest asset home for good. Trading him is the only way.
But, as John Fox stated, “He’s still ours.” Steve Smith is likely to still be ours for a long time. It’s how he handles himself that could determine just how long before he is someone else’s.