WR Steve Smith Suspended for Chargers Game

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith has been suspended by the team for the first two games of the regular season after punching teammate Ken Lucas in the face during practice. The suspension means Smith will miss the Panthers' opening game on Sept. 7 against the Chargers.

Steve Smith's suspension gives the Chargers defense a huge leg-up going into opening day. Smith was far-and-away the most dynamic player on Carolina's offense, having recorded at least 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in each of the last three seasons.

With Smith out of the lineup, D.J. Hackett and Muhsin Muhammad will likely start for the Panthers. Sophomore Dwayne Jarrett will likely be the third receiver, which should make for a relatively easy first matchup for Antoine Cason, assuming he wins the nickel back job.

The Panthers passing offense struggled last season even with Smith in the lineup. Carolina fielded the League's fourth-worst passing offense, mustering just more than 170 yards per game.

San Diego will counter with a passing defense that led the NFL in interceptions (30) and placed in the top-five in sacks (45).

That certainly gives San Diego a sizable mismatch heading into Week 1, one made all the more apparent by the suspension of Smith.

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