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July 30, 2006

2005 draftees low on depth chart

The Panthers have been getting a lot of praise for their drafts in recent years. It’s well deserved, because players such as Jordan Gross, Julius Peppers and Chris Gamble played big roles in last year’s drive to the NFC Championship Game and they’re part of the reason the Panthers are a trendy pick to go to the Super Bowl this season.

That’s nice, but the Class of 2005 is going to need Thomas Davis and Evan Mathis to have long and productive careers or else it could be labeled a bust.

Early in their second training camp, Eric Shelton, Atiyyah Ellison and Stefan LeFors are not in a good spot. Respectively, they’re second- third- and fourth-round picks and each of them is very much in danger of not making the team.

Shelton had a disappointing camp last year before suffering a foot injury that put him out for the season. He’s behind DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams on the depth chart, and is battling Jamal Robertson and Nick Goings for the third (and, perhaps, final) running back spot.

Maybe it’s too early to give up on Shelton, who could be the best bet to be the short-yardage and goal-line runner. But Goings and Robertson have versatility and value on special teams. If Shelton doesn’t show dramatic progress from last year, the Panthers will run out of patience.

They didn’t have much patience with Ellison last season. They cut him in training camp and brought him back to the practice squad. Ellison eventually was promoted to the regular roster, but that came after several injuries to other players. After an offseason overhaul of the defensive line, Ellison entered camp as the team’s sixth-best defensive tackle. At most, the Panthers will keep five.

Then there’s LeFors, who spent last season as the No. 3 quarterback. He has intangibles, but doesn’t have great size or a particularly strong arm. He’s going to be pushed by rookie Brett Basanez, who comes with similar intangibles, better size and a better arm.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 30, 2006 at 08:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 28, 2006

Justin Hartwig on PUP list

Center Justin Hartwig will miss the first day of training camp today as he recovers from hernia surgery. He will be put on the active physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list. Team officials are optimistic Hartwig should be able to practice within a few days, and he can come off the list at any time.

Defensive tackle Kindal Moorehead and defensive end Otis Leverette also will be on the active (PUP) list with minor injuries that should only keep them out for a few days.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 28, 2006 at 08:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 27, 2006

Wilds gets attention

Although the Panthers released Garnell Wilds soon after he had a motorscooter accident in the spring, they’re paying a lot of attention to the defensive back.

Wilds tore an anterior cruciate knee ligament. A source close to Wilds said the team paid for the surgery and a Panthers official was present in the recovery room in a Tampa hospital. The source said the Panthers have indicated to Wilds that they’ll re-sign him next year if he can get his knee in shape.

RIVALRY HEATING UP: Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen held a town-hall-sort of meeting with fans last week. Allen talked a lot about the virtues of Joey Galloway, who replaced Keyshawn Johnson in Tampa. Videos were played in the background.

They were pretty much a highlight reel of Galloway, but the final play was a shot of Keyshawn Johnson in a Bucs uniform dropping a pass against the Panthers. The fans cheered wildly. Allen insisted it was just coincidence that the play was included. We think not. We think it’s just the latest tweaking in a heated rivalry.

Posted by Observer staff on July 27, 2006 at 11:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

No deal yet for DeAngelo Williams

Although there is strong talk in the agent community that the Panthers have reached a deal with first-round pick DeAngelo Williams, general manager Marty Hurney said early Thursday afternoon there is no agreement yet.

Hurney said talks are continuing and he's hopeful the Panthers have Williams signed in time for Saturday's first training camp progress. But Hurney said talk that a five-year deal worth about $7.5 million is in place is premature.

The Panthers also are trying to finish a deal with fourth-round pick Nate Salley.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 27, 2006 at 01:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

I love Spartanburg, really

In the past, I've taken some heat from the fine citizens of Spartanburg for making an occasional critical comment about their city.

I'm not going to do that this year. Maybe it's the full-service Marriott hotel that opened a couple of years ago. Maybe it's time to be kinder and gentler. Or maybe it's the realization that as long as Jerry Richardson owns the Panthers, they're going to train at Wofford College.

Whatever, I'm looking forward to my month at my home away from home.

The 10 best things about Spartanburg:

  1. The city's forefathers appreciate middle linebacker Dan Morgan more than people in Charlotte. There's a road called Daniel Morgan Avenue. Next on the agenda: The Steve Smith Expressway and Karl Hankton Blvd.
  2. The Sake Grill in downtown Spartanburg has the best egg rolls this side of Greenville.
  3. If I were allowed to be a fan, Spartanburg would be the place to do it. The autograph opportunities after each practice are about as good as you'll find in the sports world.
  4. The traffic is minimal and you no longer have to watch out for Todd Sauerbrun.
  5. The casino in Cherokee is only a short ride away.
  6. From a team perspective, the facilities at Wofford are about as good as you'll find among NFL teams that train away from home.
  7. At least one night during camp, there's comedy in the Wofford gymnasium when a bunch of sports writers try to play basketball.
  8. The Spartanburg YMCA always has an open racquetball court.
  9. The weather doesn't vary. The forecast for every day from now until the end of camp: Hot. REAL hot.
  10. It's the perfect place to prepare for the preseason trip to Jacksonville. Actually, Spartanburg may have a better nightlife and more cultural opportunities than downtown Jacksonville.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 27, 2006 at 10:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 26, 2006

Meadows decision not that difficult

The Panthers emphasized it was a very difficult decision to release Adam Meadows on Tuesday. View story

It couldn’t have been that hard. They did it almost as soon as Meadows officially un-retired and his rights reverted to the Panthers.

On the surface, you have to wonder why a team that feels it's on the verge of the Super Bowl wouldn’t at least bring a long-time NFL starter to training camp. After all, it isn’t like the Panthers have anything rock solid at tackle beyond Jordan Gross.

Travelle Wharton is serviceable on the left side. At worst, Meadows could have competed with veteran Todd Fordham and youngsters Dave Kadela and Rashad Butler for a backup role. And Meadows wouldn’t have cost that much -- $720,000 if he made the team and nothing if he didn’t.

But the Panthers know as much about Meadows’ medical history as anyone because he retired on them in the middle of training camp two years ago.

Meadows says his shoulders are fine. Maybe the Panthers don’t believe it. Or maybe they’d just rather totally forget how a once-promising free agent’s abrupt retirement was a major reason why they stumbled to 7-9 in 2004.

DEEP BREATH. To all the folks who are starting to panic because three draft picks remain unsigned: Relax. Second-rounder Richard Marshall is close to signing. True, it’s kind of strange that fourth-rounder Nate Salley isn’t signed, but give it a day or two to sort out. He doesn’t have much choice. The biggest challenge is first-rounder DeAngelo Williams and, if you go by recent history, his deal likely will come Friday or Saturday. If it doesn't, then start to panic.

Posted by Observer staff on July 26, 2006 at 11:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 24, 2006

When my ex-coach talks Super Bowl, listen

   Even in a remote corner of Pennsylvania, the Panthers are everybody’s darling.

   That fact became clear as my vacation was coming to an end last week. Hanging out with my former high school baseball coach, I heard a prediction I never expected.

   “You better do your Christmas shopping now,’’ Paul Fearick said. “You’re going to have a long season. The Panthers are going to the Super Bowl.’’

   It’s one thing for Street & Smiths or The Sporting News to pick the Panthers to go to the Super Bowl. That’s hype at its finest. But, when Fearick starts talking about the Panthers going to Miami, I start to buy in. His expertise is baseball, but he’s always followed the Joe Paterno code of poor-mouthing his teams. Last spring, “Coach’’ told me he wasn’t going to have a very good team. He wound up going 18-3 and deep into the state playoffs.

   MARSHALL CLOSE? The Panthers are making progress toward signing second-round draft pick Richard Marshall. His agent said Monday afternoon the two sides are close and a deal could be reached within the next day or two.

   MEADOWS WAITING. Agent Don Henderson said Monday he’s waiting for word on the Panthers on the status of offensive tackle Adam Meadows, who has come out of retirement. Meadows filled out his paperwork with the league and his rights reverted to the Panthers. But it remains to be seen if the Panthers want Meadows. Henderson said Meadows would be happy to play for the Panthers, but would move to another team if Carolina doesn’t want him.

   LIVE FROM CAMP. SIRIUS NFL Radio, easily the best station available to die-hard fans, will broadcast live from Panthers training camp on Aug. 10. Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan will host the show that day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It’s part of a training camp tour that will include visits to 26 teams.

Posted by Observer staff on July 24, 2006 at 04:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)