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May 25, 2006

Panthers part of health study

Random news, notes and observations to help pass the quietest time of the NFL year:

-- The Panthers have been selected as one of four teams to participate in a pilot program for the NFL Subcommittee on Cardiovascular Health, according to a league source. The Panthers will be joined by the Ravens, Jets and Steelers. The subcommittee is studying cardiovascular disease in current and former NFL players.

Twenty players for each of the four teams will be monitored as part of the pilot program this season. If the program is successful, it likely will lead to a league-wide study in 2007.

-- Panthers coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney aren’t going to be happy when the season-preview magazines come out in about a month. Fox and Hurney prefer to fly under the radar. In the past, Fox has thrived on convincing his team it’s an underdog and wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. That tactic won’t be possible this year. Two of the national magazines I do some free-lance writing for are picking the Panthers to go deep into the playoffs (I can’t let the cat out of the bag and say just how deep) and others are sure to follow.

-- Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Steelers owner Dan Rooney are in charge of the committee that’s working to find a replacement for Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. There’s no doubt Richardson and Rooney are among the five or six most powerful owners in the league. But the key owner in the process to replace Tagliabue will be Dallas’ Jerry Jones. As with just about every other league matter, there will be a divide between old-guard and new-guard owners (Richardson and Rooney head the old guard). Jones is the one owner who bridges the old and the new. Keep an eye on which candidate Jones backs because that probably will be the next commissioner.

-- Drew Rosenhaus, the Poston brothers, David Dunn and Tom Condon get most of the headlines in the agent business. But the most underrated power broker in that field might be Bob LaMonte. He’s the agent for Fox, six other NFL head coaches, a slew of coordinators and assistants, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis and a bunch of prominent front-office types.

In the past few months, LaMonte has negotiated massive extensions for Fox, Atlanta’s Jim Mora and Seattle’s Mike Holmgren. But LaMonte is much more than a negotiator. He’s very tied in to front offices around the league and excels at marketing his clients. One LaMonte client to keep an eye on down the road is Panthers quarterbacks coach Mike McCoy. He’s young, but very highly-regarded in league circles. McCoy needs to step up to an offensive coordinator job first (perhaps with the Panthers if Dan Henning eventually retires), but he’s on track to someday become a head coach.

-- The Sporting News is scheduled to run a three-page feature on Panthers defensive tackle Kris Jenkins in next week’s edition.

-- The Panthers are $4.7 million under this year’s salary cap. They’ll need $3.7 million of that to sign their draft picks. In a side note, the Panthers have a little over $97 million counting against this year’s cap. They already have almost $105 million committed toward the 2007 cap, which will be $109 million.

-- What kind of a contract can first-round pick DeAngelo Williams expect? Start with the deal signed by Atlanta receiver Roddy White, who was taken in the same draft position (27th overall) last year. White signed a four-year deal that averages $1.7 million a season and included $3.625 million in bonus money. Add in the fact the salary cap jumped by $10 million from last year and Williams is probably looking at more than $4 million in bonus money and an average of around $2 million a season.

-- Defensive tackle Tony Brown, who was allocated to the Amsterdam Admirals by the Panthers, is a finalist for NFL Europe Defensive Player of the Year. The winner is scheduled to be announced Thursday.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 25, 2006 at 12:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

May 22, 2006

Jenkins happy about DL additions

   As you read in The Observer last week, defensive tackle Kris Jenkins had a lot to say as he discussed coming back from his second major injury in two years. Jenkins talked for more than an hour and space limitations prohibited fitting anywhere close to the entire interview in the newspaper.

   But some of the other things Jenkins had to say were interesting.

   Although some may look at the arrival of free agents Maake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis and surmise the Panthers aren’t convinced the two-time All-Pro can stay healthy and be the player he was before the injury, Jenkins is excited about the moves.

   “Kemo’s like my size or bigger and that’s ridiculous,’’ Jenkins said. “That man’s head is huge. They had to order a special helmet for him. That’s going to be somebody that’s hard to move on the run and I’m excited about that. Damione is quick and agile and he’s going to be great on third downs.’’

   Jenkins said he believes the defensive line can be the best in the league. But the moves will impact more than the line. Jenkins said the added beef in the middle of the line could make Dan Morgan the most productive middle linebacker in the NFL.

   “Dan saw Kemo standing next to me and he said, 'I love you guys,' ’’ Jenkins said. “Dan knows he’s not going to be touched. He’s going to be able to run around and do his thing.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on May 22, 2006 at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 15, 2006

Signing bonuses for undrafted free agents

Cornerback Jarrett Bush and offensive lineman Adam Stenavich were the two most pricey of the undrafted free agents signed by the Panthers.

According to numbers obtained by The Observer, Bush and Stenavich each received a $20,000 signing bonus. All of Carolina’s rookie free agents received three-year deals at minimum base salaries.

The only variation was in signing bonus money.

Here’s a look at how much each of the undrafted rookies received as a signing bonus:

Cornerback Jarrett Bush, $20,000

Offensive lineman Adam Stenavich, $20,000

Quarterback Brett Basanez, $12,000

Receiver Jovon Bouknight, $10,000

Receiver Taye Biddle, $7,000

Cornerback Albert Toeaina, $7,000

Receiver Lynzell Jackson, $7,000

Receiver Justin McCullum, $5,000

Receiver Daniel Smith, $5,000

Defensive end Devan Long, $5,000

Offensive lineman Adam O’Connor, $3,000

Cornerback Marcus Cassel, $1,000

Posted by Observer Sports on May 15, 2006 at 05:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

May 08, 2006

Observations from minicamp (within limits)

It’s not easy to tell much when about 90 players are running around without pads and not hitting. And there are rules about what can be reported about sessions that aren’t open to the public. But, working within those rules, here are some observations from the Panthers three-day mini-camp, which ended Sunday.

  • It may only be May, but it doesn’t seem to matter to Steve Smith. The receiver, who always seems to be going at top speed, was making plays left and right.
  • Smith wasn’t the only receiver making big plays. Drew Carter and Efrem Hill were very impressive at times. Memo to Keary Colbert, who sat out as he recovers from off-season surgery: It might be a good idea to get back on the field very quickly if you want that No. 3 receiver spot. It would seem the Panthers are locked in with Smith, Keyshawn Johnson, Colbert, Carter and Karl Hankton as their top five receivers. But Hill, who also has return abilities, could factor into the mix or prompt the Panthers to keep six receivers.
  • It’s way too early to read much into this, but undrafted free agent quarterback Brett Basanez may have a shot to steal the No. 3 job from Stefan LeFors. Basanez has a stronger arm and looked good at times. But, at other times, it was obvious he’s learning a new system.
  • The outside linebacker spot opposite Thomas Davis is going to be the most interesting competition of training camp. Keith Adams worked with the first team in mini-camp, but that doesn’t mean much. Na’il Diggs, James Anderson, Adam Seward and Chris Draft are going to get long looks in training camp.
  • Rookie tight end Jeff King showed decent hands. He also bears a strong resemblance to backup quarterback Chris Weinke, although King has a lot more hair.
  • Speaking of Weinke, if the drill where offensive coordinator Dan Henning has his quarterbacks throw at barrels was the only thing that mattered, Weinke undoubtedly would be the starter. He seems to land at least one of his throws in the barrel every time and comes close on several others.
  • Jarrett Bush, an undrafted safety from Utah State, drew some major attention when he intercepted a pass on the final play of mini-camp while the offense was working on the two-minute drill.
  • Again, there were no pads and no contact, but rookie DeAngelo Williams certainly looks as if he has the potential to be the most explosive running back in franchise history.
  • Punter Jason Baker’s job probably was safe after a strong performance last season. It’s probably safer than ever because Micah Knorr shanked several punts.
  • Second-round draft pick Richard Marshall comes across as a guy with a lot of confidence. The cornerback from Fresno State also showed some signs he can back that up.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 8, 2006 at 04:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 04, 2006

Shelton in the spotlight at mini-camp

Forget that Keyshawn Johnson and DeAngelo Williams will be making his their first appearance in Panthers uniforms when mini-camp opens Friday.

The player I’m most interested to see is running back Eric Shelton.

Shelton, a second-year pro out of Louisville, has a lot to prove and, depending on what he does in the next few months, he could end up being anywhere from having a productive role in the running game to a spot on the waiver wire.

Shelton was a huge disappointment in training camp after the Panthers used a second-round pick on him last year. He seemed to have trouble grasping the offense and had problems picking up blitzes. There was no way the coaching staff was going to give him any playing time if he couldn’t protect the quarterback. But Shelton suffered a foot injury late in the preseason and was placed on the injured reserve list.

The injury might not have been enough to keep Shelton out all season, but the coaches decided it was the best thing to do for a rookie who wasn’t ready to play.

Now, Shelton has had a year to watch and absorb the offense. He also wasn’t happy about sitting down last year and might use the experience as motivation.

Shelton needs motivation. He has got DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams ahead of him on the depth chart. Kick returner Jamal Robertson also can contribute as a running back. Although Nick Goings was more of a backup fullback last year, he has demonstrated he can be a dependable running back and the team wants to take a long look at Casey Cramer as a possible backup for fullback Brad Hoover.

That puts Shelton on the hot seat. If he can step, he could have a valuable role as a short-yardage and goal-line runner. If not, he might not make the roster.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 4, 2006 at 10:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 01, 2006

Panthers sign 4 who went undrafted

The Panthers have started signing undrafted free agents.

They've agreed to terms with Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez; Michigan offensive lineman Adam Stenavich; Nebraska offensive lineman Seppo Eywaraye; and UCLA cornerback Marcus Cassel.

UPDATE: The Panthers have agreed to terms with 13 undrafted college free agents. Here is the complete list.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 1, 2006 at 01:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)