July 28, 2015

We're moving!

Folks,

The Inside the Panthers blog has a new home just in time for training camp, and here's the new link

Please join us there, and be sure to update your bookmarks.

Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks for reading. 

Joseph Person, 

Jonathan Jones

Mike Persinger

Posted by Observer Sports on July 28, 2015 at 07:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

July 19, 2015

Cam Newton makes cameo at flag football tourney

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has played a lot of football since signing his $103 million extension last month -- some of it with the Panthers.

Two weeks after practicing with an Australian Rules Football team during a Gatorade athlete exchange program, Newton made a cameo appearance during a flag football tournament Saturday outside Atlanta.

Several photos surfaced on social media over the weekend showing Newton lined up at wide receiver wearing belted flags and a Gatorade towel over his head. In an Instagram video, Newton runs a 10-yard out route, catches a pass and goes out of bounds.

The Panthers have not had a good history with players jumping into the fray at flag football games (see Steve Smith's broken arm during a 2010 flag game in Charlotte).

But one of the players whose team Newton joined Saturday said Newton acted more as a coach and supporter during the Fallen Warriors Invitational, a two-day, 8-versus-8 tournament in Stockbridge, not far from Newton's south Atlanta hometown.

Franklin Terry, a member of the Greensboro-based AthElites, estimated Newton played a total of four or five snaps and was running less than full speed after approaching Terry and his teammates and asking if he could join them.

"He definitely was not going hard," Terry said Sunday night while driving back from Atlanta. "He played on the outside with a towel over his head."

 

"Nobody even saw him crank a gear," Terry added. "I wanted to see him run. It was 94 degrees, and he didn't even break a sweat."

A clause in NFL contracts prohibits players from playing football other than for the team without prior written consent from the club. Players also can't "engage in any other activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury."

But in Terry's view, the Panthers' franchise quarterback did not put himself at risk.
"He probably got one ball thrown to him. And then the rest of the time, he was calling the plays in the huddle. That is exactly how I could relate it to -- a Pop Warner coach calling plays and standing on the field," Terry said.

"This is a contact league," Terry said. "He would not be that same stupid."

Terry said Newton made a lot of friends Saturday, buying Slushies for everyone, posing for pictures and having a good time.

"I'm a Cowboy fan and I was like, 'I can never root against you in my life,'" said Terry, whose team went on to win the tournament Sunday without Newton. "It was one of the best moments of flag we've all had. We were all ecstatic just to have him representing our team."

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on July 19, 2015 at 11:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 16, 2015

Donnie Shell selling his Panthers' NFC title ring

Donnie Shell won four Super Bowl rings as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers' legendary "Steel Curtain" defense in the 1970s.

Shell didn't win a Super Bowl ring during his 15 years in the Carolina Panthers' front office, but he received a ring after the Panthers won the NFC in 2003.

And it can be yours for about $4,000 or so.

Shell's NFC championship ring is among the items for sale as part of Lelands.com's vintage sports auction. The 14-karat while gold ring, featuring 18 diamonds in the shape of a football around a blue stone and Panthers logo, had a high bid of $3,993 as of Thursday afternoon.

The auction ends at 9 p.m. Friday.

Josh Evans, founder and chairman of Lelands, said Shell is donating the proceeds to an undisclosed charity.

Evans said Shell, the Panthers' director of player development before retiring in 2009, wasn't willing to part with his Steelers' rings.

"It was the best worst option," Evans said of Shell's Panthers ring. "We went through the list. He's got the rings from the Steelers and those were 'No way.' This was the thing we thought ... he wrestled with it, though. It wasn't an easy process."

Shell, 62, was the Steelers' strong safety and went to five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1978-82. The three-time, All-Pro selection retired in 1987 with 51 career interceptions.

Attempts to reach Shell, who runs a consulting firm in Rock Hill, were unsuccessful. Evans said Shell did not want him to disclose the charity that will benefit from the sale of the ring.

--Joseph Person

Donnieshell300p

Posted by Observer Sports on July 16, 2015 at 04:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 22, 2015

Cam Newton cracks Tom Brady Deflategate joke

Always one to try to draw a smile out of someone, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton cracked a topical Deflategate joke at the expense of Tom Brady during the weekend.

In a Vine shot this weekend at Newton’s QB Skills Challenge in Florida’s IMG Academy, Newton asked, “What is that? Tom Brady?” when he gripped a presumably underinflated football.

 

Newton appears to be readying to throw to a receiver as he takes a shot drop. He grips the football and prepares to throw when stops, looks down at the ball and asks the question before flicking it back to one of the camp’s participants.

Brady, of course, is the Patriots quarterback who has been suspended by the NFL for the first four games of this season for his role in Deflategate—a controversy from the AFC Championship Game where several New England footballs did not meet inflation requirements. Brady's appeal of the suspension will be heard Tuesday.

Newton had a chance to make a similar joke less than two weeks ago at his inaugural charity kickball tournament. As the “pitcher” in the championship game, Newton rolled one of the kickballs off the side for an unknown reason.

One person from the dugout shouted out “Tom Brady,” but Newton offered no reaction and rolled the new kickball.

While I can’t say with confidence Newton meant nothing by the joke, he regularly speaks glowingly of Brady and places him among the elite quarterbacks in the NFL when speaking to the media.

(ht @TomahawkNation)

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on June 22, 2015 at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 18, 2015

Panthers, Dolphins to hold joint practices at Wofford Aug. 19-20

The Panthers and Dolphins will hold joint practices open to the public at Wofford this summer in the days leading up to their exhibition in Charlotte on Aug. 22.

Carolina and Miami will practice with each other at 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 19 and 20 at Wofford’s Gibbs Stadium. It marks the first time the Panthers have held a joint practice at Wofford with another NFL team since doing so with the Lions in 2000.

The practices come on the final two days of camp in Spartanburg. Carolina begins training camp on July 31 and ends on Aug. 20.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach (Joe) Philbin, and we’re excited to be working with the Dolphins,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said in a statement. “The Dolphins do some things differently on offense, defense and special teams so it will be an opportunity to work on all three phases of the game in controlled situations with really good tempo. Our players will see some different looks, and it will be a couple days of quality practice for us.”

The Panthers will have a Lowe’s Kickoff Party on July 31 starting at 4:30 p.m. with practice beginning at 6:30. The annual Fan Fest will be held at Bank of America Stadium starting at 5 p.m. on Aug. 7.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on June 18, 2015 at 09:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 21, 2015

Cam Newton falls 49 spots to No. 73 in NFL Network's Top 100

The debate on Cam Newton’s place among the top NFL players continues.

NFL Network revealed its annual Top 100, and the Carolina Panthers starting quarterback checked in at No. 73 one year after he was No. 24.

Newton had been in the top 50 for his career, sitting at No. 40 after his stellar rookie season and following it up with No. 46 in 2013. The list is voted on by players only.

Newton’s play did dip in 2014 compared to the previous year. The Panthers went 5-8-1 in the regular season with him as a starter, though they did win a playoff game against the Cardinals (who had quarterback Ryan Lindley, who won’t be making this Top 100 list).

He had fewer passing yards (3,127) and passing touchdowns (18) than in any previous year. And his 58.5-percent completion rate was the second-lowest in his four years.

But Newton was also playing on a surgically repaired ankle, cracked ribs from an exhibition and, just as he was healing up, fractured his lower back in a car accident.

Newton is the tenth-rated quarterback in this year’s Top 100, so I suppose that’s one way to look at it. But to drop 49 spots because of an injury-riddled season is curious.

Of course, it could be worse. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan went from No. 17 in 2013 to off the list entirely last year to No. 77 this year for what mostly appears to be a poor team performance rather than individual play, which has been hampered by inconsistent line play for each of the past two seasons.

This is also a list that last year ranked eventual NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers No. 11 overall and had Jamaal Charles and Drew Brees in front of him.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on May 21, 2015 at 08:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (42)

May 19, 2015

What Ryan Tannehill's new deal means for Cam Newton

The Observer has reported Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been deliberate in his contract negotiations with the team, content to let the market for quarterbacks reset.

Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson are expected to approach or potentially surpass the $22 million-per-year average of Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. That's the high bar.

But Miami might have reset the low bar Monday when the Dolphins extended Ryan Tannehill, the first quarterback from the class of 2012 to receive an extension.

Tannehill's extension includes a reported $77 million in "new money" over four years, an average of $19.3 million that puts him sixth behind Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger.

That's a good chunk of change for a quarterback who in three seasons has yet to lead the Dolphins to a winning record or playoff berth. Tannehill is coming off a career year in which he threw for 4,045 yards and 27 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 92.8.

Tannehill's career passing numbers (61.9 completion percentage, 84.0 passer rating) are similar to Newton's (59.5 and 85.4). Neither has a winning record as a starter: Tannehill is 23-25, Newton is 30-31-1.

But Newton's running ability and the Panthers' back-to-back division titles put him at a different level than Tannehill. Newton came in at No. 7 on NFL.com's Dave Dameshek's list of the league's top quarterbacks. Tannehill didn't crack the top 14.

Tannehill's new contract won't have a significant affect on Newton's negotiations. It just raised the floor for quarterbacks a little higher.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on May 19, 2015 at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

May 15, 2015

Panthers tabbed to finish last in division by SI

Carolina’s free agency and draft didn’t impress at least one expert.

Sports Illustrated NFL writer Don Banks predicts the Panthers will finish in last place in the NFC South after what he believes was a poor offseason.

Banks picks the Saints to be first, followed the Falcons and then the Buccaneers.

Here’s what he writes about the Panthers:

"Picking a team that went 7-8-1 to finish last in its division might not seem like such a big stretch, but it does raise a few eyebrows when that club also happens to be the two-time defending NFC South champion. Behold the enigma that is the Carolina Panthers. No matter how impressive their December rally was, I can’t get past how shoddy a team the Panthers were for most of last season. When you mix in their ho-hum free agency work (Ted Ginn, Michael Oher, and Jonathan Martin?) and a puzzling top of the draft (Shaq Thompson and trading up for Devin Funchess?), it's really hard to view Carolina as a playoff contender."

It’s fair to question how much the Panthers actually upgraded their offensive line, which was ravaged by injuries last season. And plenty have wondered if Carolina reached for Thompson and gave up too much for Funchess.

But it’s important to note that in free agency, what you keep is as important as what you gain or lose. Carolina kept its strengths strong by extending Greg Olsen, returning defensive tackles Colin Cole and Dwan Edwards and going younger at running back with Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne. Plus, Carolina figures to have a healthy Cam Newton in 2015.

The Panthers seem to be the most consistent of all the NFC South teams as it stands now. They are coming off back-to-back division titles—the first team to ever do it in the NFC South—while New Orleans goes through a major overhaul, Atlanta is filling gaps with a new head coach and Tampa Bay will depend on a rookie quarterback to bring them five or six wins.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on May 15, 2015 at 10:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (48)

May 11, 2015

Luke Kuechly wins Butkus Award a second time

Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly recently became a two-time winner of the Butkus Award, which honors the top linebacker in high school, college and the NFL each year.

Kuechly, a two-time Pro Bowler and the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, became the fourth player to win the award at two levels.

Kuechly, the Butkus winner in 2011 following his junior season at Boston College, joins Von Miller, Patrick Willis and Manti Te'o (high school and college) as players who have won it on two tiers. DeMarcus Ware has won the NFL award twice.

Dick Butkus, the former Chicago Bears great, likes to surprise the recipient with the award in person. He brought Kuechly to Chicago during the NFL draft weekend under the guise of having Kuechly help with Butkus' charitable work, then presented the award to Kuechly during a live TV broadcast on a regional cable channel.

Butkus showed up at the Boston College banquet four years ago to give Kuechly the award when he won it the first time.

Kuechly led the NFL in tackles for the second time in three seasons with 153 stops in 2014. He added a career-high 12 pass breakups, with one interception.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on May 11, 2015 at 05:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

May 05, 2015

Trai Turner 'doing his best' to recruit, show support for La'el Collins

Panthers offensive guard Trai Turner is another in a long list of friends and former teammates of La’el Collins who have reached out to the talented offensive tackle to make his pitch for his team.

Collins went undrafted last weekend because there was too much uncertainty with why police in Baton Rouge wanted to speak with him in connection to a double murder.

Brittney Mills, a 29-year-old pregnant woman believed to be Collins’ ex girlfriend, was shot and killed on April 24. Her son, Brenton, was delivered by cesarean section but died a week later.

Police in Baton Rouge have said Collins is “still not a suspect,” but a Panthers source told me the team is in wait-and-see mode until he is completely cleared, if and when that happens.

Turner and Collins are close friends from their time on the LSU offensive line, and Turner—last year’s third-round pick for Carolina—told fans via Twitter today that he has made his pitch to Collins.

 

 

Several of Collins’ former teammates at LSU who play for the Dolphins took a flight to meet with him Tuesday. Former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has reached out to Collins urging him to pick the Buccaneers in undrafted free agency.

Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan met Collins for dinner last night, though it’s unclear if that broke NFL rules or if Ryan simply circumvented them.

Still, I’m told the Panthers are playing it safe until there’s a clear resolution that does not involve Collins in this tragic situation.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 5, 2015 at 04:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

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