Smith regrets his flag football injury|WR expects to be ready by opener

Published 1:09 am Friday, June 25, 2010

By By MIKE CRANSTON, AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE — An apologetic but defiant Steve Smith expressed regret Thursday for breaking his left forearm playing flag football, while also taking shots at critics who questioned the Carolina Panthers receiver’s judgment.
Smith called into Charlotte radio station WFNZ-AM, acknowledging he had been a regular participant in an adult flag football league at a Charlotte YMCA. He was injured Sunday when he slipped and used his left arm to brace his fall. Smith broke the same arm, but in a different spot, at the end of last season.
‘‘Obviously, I put my team and myself in a bad situation by playing,’’ Smith said. ‘‘But that wasn’t my intention and wasn’t what I thought the outcome was going to be.’’
Playing football out of the team setting and participating in risky activities are usually banned in most NFL contracts. The Panthers aren’t expected to take serious action against Smith, who will miss much of training camp but is expected to be ready for the regular-season opener Sept. 12 at the New York Giants.
‘‘I wish I could take it back,’’ Smith said. ‘‘But I am a regular guy outside of football. I mow my grass, too. I can get my finger chopped off fixing my lawnmower. I could roll my ankle playing tag or slip-n-slide with my kids. In hindsight, yeah, I won’t do it again. But I was just having fun, playing with some guys.’’
Smith, who said he played quarterback and defensive back in the league, was quick to bring up the subject many wanted answered: Why would a four-time Pro Bowl selection due $5.75 million this season play in a flag football league full of weekend warriors?
‘‘If you get out of your little shallow box, you would understand it’s more than just money for me in this game,’’ Smith said. ‘‘This is what I grew up playing, and it was my offseason. Until freaking Father’s Day, nothing had happened.’’
The fiery Smith, who has been suspended twice in his NFL career for punching teammates, led the league in catches, yards receiving and touchdown catches in 2005. Despite Carolina’s quarterback problems last season, Smith had 65 catches for 982 yards and seven touchdowns before he was injured in Week 16.
Smith had a plate inserted in his arm after that injury, but said it’s unlikely that contributed to Sunday’s incident.
‘‘I don’t think so,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s like getting struck by lightning twice.’’
His agent said Smith had another plate and screws inserted in surgery Sunday night. Derrick Fox initially said he thought Smith was injured while playing football with kids at his youth camp. Smith denied there was any attempt of a cover up and said he told the team to be quiet about the injury because he wanted to explain it himself.
The 31-year-old Smith did make it clear on the radio interview that he won’t play flag football again until after he retires.
‘‘I’m going to sit in my bubble. That’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my career,’’ he said. ‘‘That would be better for everybody.’’