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January 31, 2006

Peppers still on for Pro Bowl?

Although there's been speculation defensive end Julius Peppers might pull out of the Pro Bowl, Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said Tuesday he's received no indication that's the case. Peppers played the NFC Championship Game with a shoulder injury, which would give him a legitimate excuse to withdraw from the all-star game on Feb. 12 in Honolulu. Peppers already has earned a $1 million bonus by being selected to the NFC squad.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 31, 2006 at 07:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Bears' cornerback the reason for Smith's big game

DETROIT - Interesting scene from one of the main Super Bowl hotels:
   While lifting weights, a member of the Chicago Bears starting defense began talking about the NFC divisional playoff loss to the Panthers. The player took strong exception when it was suggested Carolina's Steve Smith had an "out of this world" game.
   "Steve Smith wasn't out of this world," the player said. "Our cornerback was out of this world. He fell down on the second play and didn't know where he was after that."
   The reference was to Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman, who slipped on the second play, allowing Smith to score a touchdown.
   The player went on to suggest that Chicago's defense, which had drawn comparisons to the 1985 Bears, got too full of itself. He said some of the trash talking done by the defense before the game got the Panthers fired up.
   He also added the defense should be humbled by that loss and start from square one next season.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 31, 2006 at 07:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 19, 2006

Sunday will be big payday for someone

There’s more at stake than pride in Sunday’s NFC Championship game.

There also is a lot of money on the line.

Players from the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers each will be paid $37,000 (in addition to the salaries they’ve already received for the regular season).

A victory in the NFC Championship game would also open the door for another payday.

Each player on the winning team in Super Bowl XL will receive $73,000 and members of the losing team will receive $38,000.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 19, 2006 at 05:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 18, 2006

Panthers RB coach possible Saints target

Once again, Carolina Panthers assistant coaches remain off limits to other teams until their season ends.

But, once again, the name of a Panthers assistant has popped up as a potential coordinator.

Word out of New Orleans is that Panthers running backs coach Jim Skipper could be a target for the offensive coordinator job in New Orleans.

New Saints head coach Sean Payton and Skipper were together on the New York Giants staff a few years back.

Carolina defensive line coach Sal Sunseri previously has been mentioned as a potential candidate for the defensive coordinator’s job in Green Bay.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 18, 2006 at 07:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 17, 2006

Press conferences scheduled for Friday

The Panthers and Seahawks have to be represented by their head coaches and selected players at NFC Championship game press conferences Friday. Carolina coach John Fox, quarterback Jake Delhomme, receiver Steve Smith, defensive end Mike Rucker and safety Mike Minter will take part in a press conference at 1 p.m. at Bank of America Stadium. It will be broadcast live on the NFL Network. It will not be open to the public.

The Seahawks will hold theirs in a Seattle hotel at 5:30 p.m. (Eastern). Coach Mike Holmgren, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, running back Shaun Alexander, linebacker Lofa Tatupu and defensive end Grant Wistrom will participate. Seattle’s press conference also will be carried live on the NFL Network, and is not open to the public.

DRAFT GLIMPSE: With the Panthers deep in the playoffs, not too many people are thinking ahead to the college draft in April. But people outside the Carolinas already are. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. recently issued his first mock draft and he has the Panthers taking Notre Dame tight end Anthony Fasano.

Here's Mel's mock:

1. Houston -- *Reggie Bush, RB, USC

2. New Orleans -- Matt Leinart, QB, USC

3. Tennessee -- *Vince Young, QB, Texas

4. New York Jets -- D'Brickashaw Ferguson, OT, Virginia

5. Green Bay -- *Mario Williams, DE, NC State

6. Oakland -- A.J. Hawk, LB, Ohio State

7. San Francisco -- DeMeco Ryans, LB, Alabama

8. Buffalo -- *Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon

9. Detroit -- Jay Cutler, QB, Vanderbilt

10. Arizona -- DeAngelo Williams, RB, Memphis

11. St. Louis -- *Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland

12. Cleveland -- Chad Greenway, LB, Iowa

13. Baltimore -- Tamba Hali, DE, Penn State

14. Philadelphia -- *Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State

15. Atlanta -- Michael Huff, DB, Texas

16. Miami -- *Winston Justice, OT, USC

17. Minnesota -- *LenDale White, RB, USC

18. Dallas -- Jimmy Williams, DB, Virginia Tech

19. San Diego -- *Ko Simpson, DB, South Carolina

20. Kansas City -- *Ashton Youboty, CB, Ohio State

21. New England -- Bobby Carpenter, LB, Ohio State

22. Denver (from Wash.) -- Mathias Kiwanuka, DE, Boston College

23. Tampa Bay -- Derek Hagan, WR, Arizona State

24. Cincinnati -- Claude Wroten, DT, LSU

25. New York Giants -- *Ernie Sims, LB, Florida State

26. Chicago -- *Leonard Pope, TE, Georgia

27. Carolina -- *Anthony Fasano, TE, Notre Dame

28. Pittsburgh -- *Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida State

29. Jacksonville -- Thomas Howard, LB, UTEP

30. Indianapolis -- *Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota

31. Denver -- *Darnell Bing, DB, USC

32. Seattle -- *Chad Jackson, WR, Florida


Posted by Observer Sports on January 17, 2006 at 07:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 16, 2006

Sunseri could be candidate for Packers

   The Panthers' coaching staff is untouchable right now, but once the postseason is over don’t be surprised if there is movement.

Defensive line coach Sal Sunseri could be a candidate for the defensive coordinator job in Green Bay. New Packers coach Mike McCarthy and Sunseri are old friends, dating back to their days growing up together in Pittsburgh.

   McCarthy can’t ask for permission to talk to Sunseri until the Panthers’ season is over, but some insiders believe McCarthy is willing to wait.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 16, 2006 at 10:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jenkins nearly gets a sack on flight home

Now I know how it feels to be an NFL quarterback with Kris Jenkins coming straight at you.

On a flight out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport this morning, I got on the plane early and sat in seat 18 F, along the window. A few minutes later, a writer from another paper sat down in 18 D. The middle seat was open. I’m 6-foot-3. The writer from the other paper is 6-4.

Suddenly, we looked up at the passengers streaming down the aisle and saw Jenkins, the injured Panthers defensive tackle, who is about 6-5 and looks like he’s pushing about 350 pounds these days.

Kris is a nice guy to talk to, but you don’t want him squeezing into a seat next to you.

We got lucky. Jenkins sat closer to the front of the plane. An off-duty pilot, who was much smaller than Jenkins, sat between the other writer and me.

COACHING IN FEBRUARY. No matter what happens, Carolina coach John Fox and his staff will be coaching in February. Obviously, if they win the NFC Championship game, they'll coach in the Super Bowl. If they lose, they’ll coach the NFC Pro Bowl squad in Honolulu.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 16, 2006 at 08:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 11, 2006

Morgan is 'a tough guy'

Great anecdote about Panthers linebacker Dan Morgan from my friend John Mullin of The Chicago Tribune:

"We have plays of him on film where he threw up in the middle of the play and still made the tackle," said Bears defensive end Jamal Green, a teammate of Morgan's at the University of Miami. "He's a tough guy. There aren't too many linebackers tougher than him, if there are any. He threw up, straight out of his facemask, and still made the tackle. Everywhere the ball was, he was. Didn't matter where it was."

Mullin then asked if the rest of the Hurricanes wanted to touch the ball after that.

"We didn’t know about it until we saw it on film,’’ Green said with a laugh.

WITHERSPOON THE WORD: Word is the Philadelphia Eagles, who certainly need some major rebuilding after a disastrous season, are doing a lot of homework on Panthers linebacker Will Witherspoon.

He can become a free agent in March. The Panthers are going to make a serious effort to re-sign Witherspoon before then, but the prospect of the Eagles and other teams pushing up the price tag may prompt him to test the market.

PLAYER SIGNED: The Panthers have signed wide receiver Matt Cherry to a futures contract for 2006. Cherry has previously been with the Bengals and Jaguars.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 11, 2006 at 08:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 09, 2006

Bears DE fires shot at Panthers

Let the war of words begin for Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game between the Panthers and Bears.

The first shot came out of Chicago on Monday.

"(The Panthers) get a lot of credit for a team that people who predict these things figured they’d go to the Super Bowl,’’ Chicago defensive end Adewale Ogunleye told reporters. "I just don’t think they deserve that credit. I think they have to prove it. We proved it one time. We’ll have to do it again.’’

The Bears defeated the Panthers 13-3 in Chicago in November. Ogunleye’s reference to the Super Bowl prediction was directed at Sports Illustrated. The magazine forecast the Panthers as Super Bowl champions before the season started.

But not all the Bears were ready to give Carolina bulletin-board material.

"We have a whole bunch of respect for them,’’ Chicago safety Mike Brown said. "We know what they bring to the table. I think everyone in the league knows what type of team they are. Most people picked them to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. We know what type of squad they have. But at the same time, we’re a very confident football team. We know we can beat them. I think they can beat us. But we know we can beat them.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on January 9, 2006 at 09:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Steve Smith deserved some MVP votes

Former NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe brought up a great point on his Monday morning show on SIRIUS NFL Radio.

Sharpe said it’s ridiculous that Carolina receiver Steve Smith didn’t receive a single vote for the Associated Press Most Valuable Player award. He’s exactly right.

Sure, Seattle running back Shaun Alexander probably deserved the award. But Smith deserved some votes. With Smith, the Panthers went 11-5 and they’re in the second round of the playoffs. Without him, they easily could have been 5-11.

PLAYOFF FEVER: You know playoff fever has hit when a very nice woman who collects parking fees at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport spots a sports writer’s name on a credit card and launches into a three-minute conversation about the Panthers and their chances in Chicago.

Posted by Observer Sports on January 9, 2006 at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)