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Smith's punishment is fitting

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Give Carolina coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney credit for doing the right thing when it came to Steve Smith.

The Panthers suspended their best player Saturday for the first two regular-season games after Smith was involved in an altercation with teammate Ken Lucas in Friday morning's practice.

That's the decision Fox and Hurney had to make because anything less could have seriously challenged their credibility in the locker room and with fans. The penalty is harsh and it puts the Panthers at risk of an 0-2 start, but this issue has bigger implications.

Had the Panthers merely fined Smith or suspended for only one game, that would have been too light and left Fox and Hurney open to serious criticism and put them in jeopardy with the locker room. But the two-game suspension is strong enough to get the message across that Fox and Hurney aren't going to put up with appalling behavior.

Smith's circumstances are unique because he's had problems controlling his anger in the past. He fought with a practice squad player in 2002 and drew a one-game suspension. Making this suspension a game longer was appropriate because of the history.

The Panthers always have believed that Smith has some positive qualities and that, along with the fact he's an incredibly talented player, have bought him several second-chances in the past.

We'll probably never know exactly what Fox, Hurney and owner Jerry Richardson have said to Smith in their private conversations. But there's one thing beyond the suspension they need to say. They need to tell Smith that this is the last time he's getting a last chance.