Panthers CB Ken Lucas did something by taking a punch to the snout that he never did in three years of playing near-Pro Bowl-level defense.
He's part of the team now.
Lucas always has been a bit of a loner, viewed by some as aloof and some as a bit off-center. Whatever it was, he was never really part of the club, never seeming fully invested here.
Now, however, he's at least a sympathetic figure, if not someone who can bring the team together. He said he was moved by the reception he got when he went into the locker room Saturday, and has chosen the high road in how he's proceeding with Smith.
"When I came over to the stadium, I wasn’t coming to get a warm welcome," Lucas said. "I was really just coming over to be part of the team and not separate myself from the team. But lo and behold, it was very overhwleming, how they responded to me. It felt pretty good.
"You can view things as a gift or a curse. And I look at this as a gift. We have a team, that I think, has what it takes to win a Super Bowl this year. This is only something that I feel like will bring us closer. I view it as a gift rather than a curse."
Lucas went on (and on, and on) about his reception.
"For those guys to come and hug me and tell me they’re glad to see me in there, that felt so good to me. Sometimes it takes adversity to know you’re appreciated or how much people really care about you.
"If I could take it back, I wouldn’t. I mean, because it’s a learning process. Trials and tribulations only make you stronger as a man. For me and Steve, .. I’m sure he regrets his actions he took, but I would be less of a man if i didn’t forgive him. ... I just feel like it's just bigger than us."