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(AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer/David T. Foster III)
By MIKE CRANSTON AP Sports Writer
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) -- Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith was sent home from training camp Friday after he punched teammate Ken Lucas during practice, causing the starting cornerback to be carted off the field holding an ice pack to his left eye.
Panthers coach John Fox said Smith and Lucas returned to Charlotte after the fight. The team didn't provide an update on the extent of Lucas' injuries and club officials declined to say if the volatile Smith, the team's top receiver, would be suspended.
"We're going to handle this matter internally," general manager Marty Hurney said.
Smith's agent, Derrick Fox, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
The melee came after both players had taken off their helmets in a break for starters during a special teams drill. It was unclear what provoked the fight. While the two have routinely jawed at each other in practice since Lucas signed with Carolina in 2005, they've never come to blows in view of reporters.
"When that happens on the field usually guys have helmets on," quarterback Jake Delhomme said. "But this happened on the sidelines, so it probably wasn't a good idea."
When attention turned from the field to the fight, several players and Fox rushed to the scene. Fox tried to separate the two, but it took linebacker Jon Beason to pull Smith off Lucas.
Lucas walked to a tent, holding his head while accompanied by a trainer. Smith was then escorted there by receiver Muhsin Muhammad to talk to Lucas.
"Steve was probably a little remorseful for what happened," Muhammad said. "He was trying to apologize, so I was walking with him just to be there."
After being treated for several minutes, Lucas walked to a nearby cart and was taken to the locker room.
Smith spent several minutes talking to kicker John Kasay on an adjacent field before he was escorted to the locker room by Hurney as practice continued.
"Anytime something like that happens you're obviously disappointed," Fox said. "It's part of football and you deal with it."
The coach had an extended talk with the team after the workout. Delhomme said Fox warned the players not to retaliate against Smith.
"I don't anticipate this having any lingering effect on this team," Delhomme said. "We were talked to and things were squashed. That's it. That's the way it is. It happened. There will be no retaliation by anybody on anything. When you look at the schedule we don't play the Panthers this year. So we need to be smart when we're out there."
A three-time Pro Bowl pick, Smith has had trouble controlling his temper. He was suspended for a game in 2002 after punching teammate Anthony Bright during a film session. Smith received counseling for anger management, and a lawsuit filed by Bright was eventually settled out of court.
Despite a history of poorly timed penalties following angry outbursts, Smith signed a contract extension last year through the 2012 season that makes him one of the NFL's highest-paid receivers.
A possible suspension to Carolina's top playmaker cast a shadow over the team Friday afternoon.
"Obviously everybody is going to be waiting to see what the repercussions are from this event," Muhammad said. "I'm just praying that we rally together as a team, because obviously there's going to be some adversity here. The focus is not where it needs to be right now.
"I'm hoping we can all come together as a team, as a family, and are able to put this behind us."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)