November 21, 2014
Five players fined for fights in Panthers-Falcons game
Players from the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons both claimed a pair of second-half fights energized them Sunday in the Falcons' 19-17 win at Bank of America Stadium.
The brawls also took a chunk from the paychecks of several players.
An NFL spokesman said Friday a total of five players were fined $8,268 apiece for their roles in the fights, which came on successive plays late in the third quarter.
Defensive backs Roman Harper and Josh Norman were fined for the Panthers, while Falcons receivers Roddy White, Harry Douglas and Devin Hester were docked, as well.
Things started when Harper was penalized for unnecessary roughness for shoving White's helmet into the turf after White's 11-yard catch. White got up and pushed Harper in the head.
On the following play, Norman and Douglas went to the ground with each grabbing the other's facemask. Hester dived headfirst at Norman, drawing an unnecessary roughness flag.
November 18, 2014
Cam Newton's Twitter account hacked; he jokes password was his name
Update (Wednesday, 3:25 p.m.): Cam Newton has his Twitter back, and apparently a sense of humor about it.
Cam Newton's Twitter account got hacked Tuesday, and Newton joked Wednesday it was because his password was simply 'Camnewton1.'
We suppose it could be worse. Newton's password could have been '123456' or the ever-popular 'password.' But 'Camnewton1' wouldn't be that far away.
Cam Newton is the latest celebrity to get his Twitter account hacked.
Newton, who's only been an active Twitter user since May's NFL draft, was hacked Tuesday afternoon when his official account sent out a few eyebrow-raising tweets.
Among the tweets were "..", "SMH", "my fantasy team sucks smh", and a tweet to Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman's official Twitter account saying "overrated." He also had a few random retweets, including an Adam Schefter tweet announcing former Browns running back Ben Tate's release.
Cam Newton's twitter account has been hacked, we're currently working to resolve the issue.— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) November 18, 2014
Newton has never been very active on Twitter. HIs account is a filled with brand endorsements, and rarely does he do much more than retweet those who tweet at him. That's why the stream of irregular tweets Tuesday afternoon threw up caution flags.
It's unclear how Newton's account was hacked.
Panthers release WR Jason Avant
The Carolina Panthers released veteran wideout Jason Avant on Tuesday, two days after Avant questioned the play-calling during the end of the Atlanta loss in an interview with the Observer.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the move had nothing to do with Avant's comments -- he said he wasn't aware of them -- but was done to give undrafted rookie Philly Brown a chance at more playing time.
Rivera also announced starting right tackle Nate Chandler will undergo season-ending surgery on his right knee and will be placed on injured reserve.
Rivera said Avant was surprised by the move.
"In all fairness to him, it has nothing to do with what he didn’t do or did or anything like that. This had everything to do with what we see in Philly and the potential in him," Rivera said.
"When you have veteran guys who play a lot in front of younger guys that have potential, sometimes you stunt their growth. This is something we felt we needed to do to give Philly an opportunity to be on the field more."
Avant, who signed a 1-year, $1.05 million deal with the Panthers during the offseason, had struggled to get separation from defensive backs in recent weeks.
He caught 21 passes for 201 yards with one touchdown for the Panthers. His 9.6 yards-per-catch average is a career low.
Brown, who went undrafted out of Ohio State, had a 47-yard touchdown catch against the Falcons -- the second-longest reception of the season for the Panthers.
In an interview with the Observer, Avant said the Panthers should have been "a little bit more aggressive" after driving to the Atlanta 32 in the final two minutes.
The Panthers called three consecutive running plays -- gaining 4 yards -- before Graham Gano missed a 46-yard field goal with 1:22 remaining.
“I’ve been in the league a long time. I know two things. You never want to give a team a chance to win a game, with how much time was left on the clock. And asking a kicker to make a 50-yard field goal with the game on the line is rough sledding,” Avant said.
“If that’s the only option, yes. But if it’s not, you want to get as close as you can and think score and play to score a touchdown. Because I’d rather the team have to score a touchdown to win the game than to have to kick a field goal. It’s just a lot different. It’s a 30-yard difference.”
November 16, 2014
CB Benwikere inactive vs. Falcons
Bene Benwikere, the Panthers' nickel corner, is inactive for Sunday's game against Atlanta and will miss his sixth consecutive game with an ankle injury.
Benwikere suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 5 against Chicago and has worked to get back on the field. He was limited in practice this week but hopeful he would play. Colin Jones and James Dockery will split time at nickel in his place.
Also inactive for the Panthers is guard Amini Silatolu, who injured his knee last week. Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was already listed out after spraining his ankle last week.
Safety Robert Lester, running back Chris Ogbonnaya, tackle Mike Remmers and tackle David Foucault are also inactive.
November 14, 2014
Panthers to start new O-line vs. Falcons; Johnson questionable
With third-year guard Amini Silatolu doubtful for Sunday's game against Atlanta, the Panthers are preparing to use their sixth different offensive line combination in as many games.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he expects rookies Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner to start at the guard spots against Atlanta. Turner, a third-round pick from LSU, returns to the lineup after missing three games with knee and ankle injuries.
The line will try to do a better job protecting Cam Newton, who was sacked a franchise record-tying nine times in a Monday night loss at Philadelphia.
Defensive end Charles Johnson was excused for the second day in a row Friday to be with his ailing grandmother in Georgia. Rivera said the hope is Johnson will be back before Sunday's game.
Running backs DeAngelo Williams, who missed two practices this week with a foot injury, returned Friday and is listed as probable for Sunday's game. Rivera said Williams would get the start over Jonathan Stewart.
Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (ankle), a first-round pick in 2013, will miss the first game of his career. Veteran Colin Cole will start in Lotulelei's spot.
November 11, 2014
Rivera refutes report, says Cam Newton not injured
Panthers coach Ron Rivera opened his Tuesday press conference refuting a FOX Sports report that Cam Newton had injuries to both ankles during Monday night’s 45-21 loss to the Eagles.
“I'm not sure where all that came from. But put it to rest,” Rivera said. “He said it at his press conference after the game, he's fine.
“I'm taking him for his word. ... The doctors have nothing on it. The trainers have nothing on it.”
Newton didn’t look himself on the field Monday night as he struggled to accelerate early to avoid sacks. Before throwing two touchdowns in the fourth quarter with the game well out of reach, Newton went 18-of-30 for 195 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions.
Newton told the media after the game he was OK. Rivera said he never got any indication from Newton or the training staff that the franchise quarterback was injured.
“I’m great. That’s not going to be a distraction,” Newton said after getting sacked a career-high nine times against Philadelphia. “Yeah, I got hit a lot today, but it’s all in the game. We’re not playing ballet. We’re not running track or anything. This is a physical sport. It’s what you sign up for.”
Early Tuesday morning, FOX Sports reported Newton had injuries to both his surgically repaired left ankle and his right ankle.
Despite the blowout loss, Rivera decided to play Newton the entire game. He said he wanted Newton to get in a rhythm, which he did by going 7-of-10 for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Was allowing Newton to get a rhythm worth the two extra sacks and a few more bumps Newton absorbed?
“Yes, because again, I’m under the assumption that he’s fine on the field,” Rivera said. Talking to the trainers, talking to the doctors, there was nothing. And talking to him there was nothing.”
November 10, 2014
Philly Brown inactive against Philly
Panthers rookie returner Philly Brown was cleared to play in Monday's night game against the Eagles, but the Philadelphia native won't be suiting up against his hometown team.
Brown and rookie offensive tackle David Foucault were somewhat surprising inclusions among the Panthers' inactives against the Eagles, although Panthers coach Ron Rivera said last week the time Brown missed while recovering from a concussion could affect his status.
Brenton Bersin will handle return duties again while Brown inactive.
The other inactives are a pair of injured rookies -- CB Bene' Benwikere and OL Trai Turner -- as well OL Mike Remmers, RB Chris Ogbonnaya and S Robert Lester.
Rivera indicated last week Foucault would be the third tackle. But the undrafted free agent from Canada struggled in the Oct. 30 loss to New Orleans, allowing three of the four sacks.
Chris Scott is expected to be the third tackle behind starters Byron Bell and Nate Chandler.
November 07, 2014
Greg Hardy to ESPN: I can't wait to play
Greg Hardy told ESPN.com that he still wants to play this season for the Carolina Panthers.
In what appeared to be a chance run-in with an ESPN reporter who covers the Dolphins at the Miami International Airport, Hardy said he’s eager to play.
“I want to play, man," Hardy told ESPN.com in his first comments to the media since an Observer interview in Week 2 of the NFL season. "My team, you know, is losing right now. So I can't wait."
Hardy is awaiting a jury trial for his domestic violence charges stemming from a May incident with his ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder. Hardy was found guilty of assaulting and threatening to kill Holder by a district court judge in July and appealed for a jury trial immediately.
Hardy’s jury trial was originally slated for Nov. 17, but earlier this week the district attorney’s office announced it had been pushed back to early 2015 due to a crowded court docket.
Hardy has been on the commissioner’s exempt list since Week 3 of the season, collecting about $770,000 per week. The Panthers have indicated they will wait for the legal process to conclude before doing anything with Hardy.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Thursday afternoon the team has not been in communication with the league about any possible change in Hardy’s status.
According to the report, Hardy is still in good shape.
“I train everywhere,” Hardy told ESPN in Miami, where he regularly travels for leisure and occasional rap performances.
November 05, 2014
Panthers getting healthy after mini-bye
The majority of the Panthers' injured players returned to practice Wednesday following a four-day break during what coach Ron Rivera called the team's "mini-bye."
The left side of the offensive line returned as tackle Byron Bell (elbow, knee) and guard Amini Silatolu (calf) came back from injuries. Silatolu had missed three games after straining his calf against Cincinnati.
With Silatolu back, undrafted rookie Andrew Norwell shifted to right guard and was taking reps with the first-team offense. Rookie guard Trai Turner, who's missed two games with knee and ankle injuries, was back at practice but had his left ankle heavily taped.
Free safety Thomas DeCoud (hamstring) was among the injured players who returned, although nickel cornerback Bene' Benwikere remained out with a high ankle sprain. Benwikere has missed four games, forcing the Panthers to use a total of four nickel backs.
Rookie return specialist Philly Brown was back after missing two games with post-concussion symptoms.
November 04, 2014
ESPN's E:60 profiles Cam Newton Tuesday night
ESPN's news magazine E:60 will show its feature on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
In a release from the network, the feature will look at how and if Newton can repeat the kind of success he had in college in the NFL. The feature, reported by Cari Champion, will focus on Newton's collegiate career, which took him from Florida to Blinn College to Auburn.
Newton and his father, Cecil, are questioned about the pay-for-play scheme that dominated headlines surrounding Newton in 2010. Newton talks about previous incidents that helped build his integrity and helped him mature.
Also interviewed for the piece was Observer beat reporter Joseph Person, among others who have written about, followed and/or know Newton.