Published: September 29, 2008
■ The growing kinship between Steve Smith and Ken Lucas was evident yesterday in the Panthers' 24-9 victory against Atlanta.
Smith scored his first touchdown of the season on a 54-yard pass from Jake Delhomme late in the second quarter, then presented the ball to Lucas on the sideline.
It was another gesture of camaraderie after Smith broke Lucas' nose with a punch during training camp and was suspended for the first two regular-season games.
"Since Day One, since the moment it happened, he has done everything that a man could ever do from a forgiveness standpoint," Lucas said. "My hat is off to him. I'm surprised, but I'm not surprised.
"Like I've said, him and I, that adversity we had at first has created a friendship we didn't have so much in the beginning. Now, we're friends. We sit down and play games together, sit down and talk and check on what each other's doing on the football field. So a lot of times, there's good that comes out of everything. It brought the team closer and created a new friendship between me and Steve."
Smith, who finished with six catches for 96 yards, did not speak to the media afterward. Lucas said that he was approaching Smith to congratulate him when Smith told him "This is for you."
"That says a lot about him as a person," Lucas said. "No one's perfect. Steve has done a great job of taking his bumps and bruises with success and moving forward."
■ Cornerback Richard Marshall had a touchdown taken away yesterday when his 29-yard interception return on the first series was negated by a penalty.
Marshall picked off a Matt Ryan pass on the Falcons' third offensive play, and raced down the left sideline. But end Julius Peppers was flagged for a roughing-the-passer penalty for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Ryan.
"I saw a flag, so I knew it was coming back," Marshall said. "But it was fun to mess around in the end zone a little. Pep came to me and said it was his fault and he shouldn't have done it. But I told him, ‘Man, keep going. We've got to go to the next play.' I said don't worry about it, we've just got to try to make another big play.'
■ Besides losing tackles Jordan Gross (concussion) and Jeff Otah (ankle) to injuries, the Panthers lost defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu with an elbow injury. And quarterback Jake Delhomme played on after suffering a bruised quadriceps in the first quarter.
Delhomme said he was affected, but he wasn't complaining after finishing 20 of 29 for a season-high 294 yards with no interceptions.
"I got kneed in the quad on the first third down of the game," Delhomme said. "As the game went on, it got tight. We wrapped it at half. Maybe we wrapped it a little too tight. It just got tight on me. I couldn't bend it a whole lot.... The second half, we would have liked to do a few different things trying to get on the edge a little. But I'm not making any excuses. I had some throws that I should have made and I didn't make."
■ The Panthers chose to keep four defensive ends active for the first time yesterday, so rookie Hilee Taylor got his first action of the season. He got his first career sack in the third quarter.
The inactives were quarterback Matt Moore, wide receiver Ryne Robinson, safety C.J. Wilson, linebacker James Anderson, guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, tackle Frank Omiyale, defensive tackle Gary Gibson and wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett.