CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith will miss the start of training camp with a broken left forearm that he suffered while playing football.
Flag football, that is.
Smith was injured Sunday while playing in a flag football game. It's an activity that could violate the terms of his contract, although Smith is expected back before the start of the regular season and might avoid serious punishment by the team.
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Smith, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, will be sidelined for at least the first couple of weeks of camp, but he is expected to be ready for the Sept. 12 season opener against the New York Giants.
"He put his arm out to brace himself. When he did, he felt a sharp pain," said Smith's agent, Derrick Fox. "He went in (Sunday) afternoon to have an X-ray and it showed a break."
Smith had surgery Sunday night to have a small plate and screws inserted in his arm. Fox said while it's the same arm that Smith broke at the end of last season, it's in a different spot and not his wrist. Smith suffered no nerve damage, is expected to make a full recovery and could return as soon as midway through the preseason.
Smith annually hosts a youth football camp in Charlotte which began Thursday, the day after the Panthers concluded voluntary spring workouts. Fox initially said Smith was injured playing with children at his camp, but the coach later said he was unsure if the receiver was playing with children or adults.
Smith's youth camp ended Saturday, one day before he was injured.
Former Panthers quarterback Josh McCown told The Charlotte Observer that he has played with Smith a few times in an adult flag football league at a Charlotte YMCA, but he wasn't with him Sunday.
Standard NFL contracts bar playing football outside of team settings and ban other risky activities, but Fox said he didn't believe the Panthers would take action since Smith should be healed for the regular season.
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney didn't return a phone message seeking comment, but he did release a statement.
"Steve talked to me and he feels terrible about it," Hurney said. "Now his focus is on rehabilitating process and getting back as quickly as he can."
Smith, 31, ranks first in team history with 58 touchdowns and 32 games of 100 or more receiving yards. Smith, who led the NFL in catches, receiving yards and touchdown catches in 2005, had 65 receptions for 982 yards and seven scores in 15 games last season.
Smith's absence from the start of training camp July 28 will coincide with major changes made at quarterback for Carolina. The Panthers released longtime starter Jake Delhomme, promoted Matt Moore to starter and drafted Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen in the second round.
The Panthers also enter the season looking for a No. 2 receiver after Muhsin Muhammad wasn't re-signed and then retired.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press