SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) -Ken Lucas stood in front of reporters Monday with a black eye and swollen nose.
Then, in his first public comments since getting punched in the face by teammate Steve Smith at practice, Lucas insisted that the incident could end up being good for the Carolina Panthers.
``I feel like what happened was a blessing in disguise,'' Lucas said. ``This is something I think has brought this team closer together. You may think (I) sound crazy for saying that, but I really think this is bigger than me and Steve.''
Lucas, the Panthers' starting cornerback, said he'll need surgery to repair his nose and will be sidelined two to three weeks after Friday's incident. Still, Lucas said he forgives Smith, who apologized to him in a face-to-face meeting.
``I think that was a big step for this team to accomplish the goals we wanted to accomplish,'' Lucas said. ``Because I felt like if I didn't forgive him, then it would divide the team up and we could pretty much throw this season away.''
Lucas acknowledged he's had a running feud with Smith since shortly after Lucas signed with Carolina in 2005. They've gone against each other in practice almost daily.
``He expects to catch every ball and I expect to defend every ball,'' Lucas said. ``When you have those two types of individuals, something has to give. When it's 100 degrees out there and you're tired and you're frustrated, sometimes emotions get involved.
``I'm sure if he had a calmer head he would have made better decisions. I don't fault him for that. There are times where I may want to hit somebody, but I control myself. I tell some of my other teammates you have to learn to keep your composure. Typically people do crazy things they regret when they're emotional. I think he just got too emotional at the time.''
Lucas' handling of the situation has impressed teammates.
``Luc's a standup guy and I commend him for everything he's done in this whole ordeal,'' safety Chris Harris said. ``We're all behind Luc 100 percent.
``And we're behind Steve. He's still one of ours. I have a daughter, and if she does something that I don't like, of course I'm going to be mad. But at the end of the day, she's still my daughter, and I'm still going to love her. He's still part of this team and he's still our family. So we're still behind him.''
Richard Marshall worked with the first team in Lucas' place on Monday.

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