Mark Washburn

Sorry, did my nose get in the way of your fist?

I don't know how it works at your job, but here's how it works at mine.

You're stressed. You're crabby. You're sucker-punching a co-worker.

You're fired.

I don't know how it works with your co-workers, but here's how it works with mine.

You break their nose, they emit unpleasant words, they call the cops.

I don't know how it works in your head, but here's how it works in mine.

Avoid bloodshed. Stay out of court.

I have nothing against Steve Smith. He's a talented athlete. He's fun to watch. He could reduce me to pulp.

But really, this nonsense must stop.

First, it's a matter of honor. If somebody is paying you $1.7 million a year, they expect a certain return. When you're busting beaks of teammates and sending them into lengthy recuperation, you're not meeting goals.

When they have to make you sit in the corner for two weeks, you're not much good to anyone, either.

Particularly not to the team, which always has Super Bowl dreams this time of year. Or to the fans, who pay a lot of money to see the gladiator show you're supposed to be starring in.

Besides, it's embarrassing to get a letter from Human Resources reminding you that, under a team policy you don't seem to be aware of, you're only supposed to maul people in opposing uniforms.

Since that 2002 whomp-up of Anthony Bright, you've got the reputation of being a serial sucker-puncher, not that anyone's going to bring that up. At least not to your face.

But it gives people the willies. They don't invite you to Christmas parties.

They definitely don't want their kids emulating you (“How come you always get to be Steve Smith and I have to be Ken Lucas?”).

And it's bad business. Makes it hard to get endorsements (“Hi, I'm Steve Smith – want a Hawaiian Punch?”).

In one way, Smith was lucky. He tangled with Lucas, who likes to keep his nose in the Bible, at least when it's not swollen to the dimensions of a major vegetable.

Lucas seems to be a turn-the-other-cheek, forgive-and-forget kind of guy. Such people are rare, particularly in violent sports.

Smith, to his credit, manned up to his bonehead move and said he was genuinely sorry and ashamed. Lucas figured a blood feud wouldn't do, and shook and made up.

Football, one of those super-sized facets of our popular culture, is sometimes called a metaphor for life. That's not true, of course – the game is in a universe all its own.

But this odd chapter contains a lesson, and a good one: Nothing counters a flight of fury better – and leaves a more indelible impression – than a flash of forgiveness.

But no more second chances. Otherwise, Smith should be given ample time to cool off – playing catch on the sidelines with Brett Favre in Green Bay.