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article imagePanthers' Lucas Overcome Differences Upon Smith's Return

By Paul Bright     Sep 18, 2008 in Sports
Arguably one of the best wide receivers in football returns to the NFL this Sunday after serving a suspension. Can the Panthers go 3-0?
Steve Smith returns to the Carolina Panthers this Sunday to face the Minnesota Vikings, hoping to give Carolina its first 3-0 start in five years. Smith served a two-game suspension for assaulting a teammate, Ken Lucas, and breaking his nose. Smith has never been a stranger to controversy, but this time he's vowed to have turned over a new leaf. His proof? He and Ken Lucas are now friends.
"Flat out, we said it: I thought he didn't like me and he thought I didn't like him," Smith said Thursday. "It's plain and simple."
Lucas and Smith had been trash-talking rivals since playing together on the Panthers for the last three years. Lucas, a corner back, often had to cover Smith during practice. The two often jawed at each other, celebrating every minor victory in major fashion during practice plays.
However, the rivalry came to an ugly head when Smith sucker-punched Lucas while he had his helmet off and was on one knee, breaking his nose. Smith was immediately suspended from training camp and then suspended by the NFL for the first two regular season games.
Smith vehemently apologized to his teammates almost as soon as it happened for creating the heavy distraction and jeopardizing their chances of winning a Super Bowl. But before his return, Lucas and Smith spoke at length for 2 1/2 hours about what had lead to their rivalry. It turns out that most of it was due to lack of communication. Yes, they were enemies. But now?
"I would think we're friends. I think the conversation we had would indicate we are," Smith said. "There were some frowns going on, some laughing and we talked about a lot of things. I think that was kind of the icebreaker. Hopefully it continues and I think it will.I mean I've always respected Ken.I guess it was just two prima donnas." quote]
His talents are obvious. In 2005, Smith lead all the NFL receivers in receptions (103), yards (1,563) and touchdowns (12). He once caught 12 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns versus the Bears during a game marred with cold and sleet. He's a three-time Pro Bowl Selection and Co-Comeback Player of the Year winner.
But Smith knows that his next chance could be his last. He was in a similar incident in 2002, punching teammate Anthony Bright during a film session. But Smith doesn't see himself going back to those old ways again.
"I don't really see myself really as trying to put myself back in this predicament, no matter what people may speculate or say or bring up."
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