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September 29, 2006

Wallace shouldn't be scapegoat for Simms' injury

Al Wallace took a hit Friday.

The Panthers defensive end was fined $7,500 for his hit on Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms on Sunday. The league found that Wallace roughed the passer.

Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. The officiating crew working the game didn’t call a penalty on the play. But you pretty much knew Wallace was going to be the scapegoat the instant Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden came out and pointed at that play as the one that caused a serious injury to Simms and suggested strongly there should have been a penalty.

It’s interesting that Gruden was so aggressive in talking about an injury. Members of the Tampa Bay media frequently joke about Gruden’s handling of injury information. He’s been known to get the injured body part wrong and members of the Tampa Bay media say that once a player is injured, he’s totally off Gruden’s radar.

That wasn’t the case with Simms. Why? There’s a theory out there (and we emphasize it’s just a theory making the rounds) that Gruden is protecting his own butt and that of the Bucs’ medical staff. It’s kind of interesting that Gruden is singling out the Wallace hit, which took place in the fourth quarter.

There were several other big hits on Simms. Defensive tackle Kris Jenkins hit Simms in the first quarter and said he noticed the quarterback holding his ribs afterward. Several Panthers shared that opinion. And several Bucs said it was shortly after that play that they noticed Simms having trouble breathing and getting his words out in the huddle.

We’ll never know for sure which hit caused Simms’ spleen to rupture. Maybe it was Wallace’s and maybe the fine is deserved.

What’s not deserved is this: When people around the country pick up their sports sections Saturday, they’re going to see the story and the automatic assumption will be that Wallace caused the injury and his conduct was out of line. Wallace even runs the risk of forever having his career remembered for that play, and some people are bound to judge him a bad guy.

Anyone that knows Wallace knows he’s one of the best human beings in the Carolina locker room. He expressed genuine concern for Simms on Wednesday.

He’ll pay the fine quietly.

If you’re looking for the victim here, it’s Simms. If you’re looking for a scapegoat, don’t look at Wallace. Go back and look at the film of the entire game and, only after you’ve seen that, decide who is to blame.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 29, 2006 at 04:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

September 27, 2006

Fields returning to Panthers? Unlikely

A reader e-mailed to ask about a “rumor’’ the Panthers were going to re-sign linebacker Mark Fields. Can only assume that comes from wishful fans thinking out loud on some message board. As it has been several times over the last six months, that possibility was run up the flagpole. According to several people who would know, there haven’t been any talks between the team and Fields about a return. For the record, Fields has battled Hodgkin’s disease twice and indications are he’s doing well. He’s also 34 and hasn’t played in the NFL since 2004.


BY THE NUMBERS: Some interesting stuff from STATS:

   Steve Smith, who played 52 snaps Sunday, was the target on 14 pass plays. Keyshawn Johnson has been the team’s most targeted receiver (25 times) through three games. Drew Carter’s been the target 21 times and Keary Colbert eight times.

   The team’s best offensive lineman, Mike Wahle, also is the leader in sacks allowed. Wahle has allowed two sacks. Left tackle Jordan Gross and right guard Evan Mathis each allowed one sack and center Justin Hartwig, who has appeared only in the opener, has allowed half a sack. The Panthers have allowed nine sacks, but STATS doesn’t track sacks allowed by running backs or tight ends.


Here’s a breakdown of Jake Delhomme’s 108 passes:
Passes Attempted    Complete    Total Incomplete

     108                       60                     48

Type                   Number            Pct of Incomp    Pct of Overall Attempts
Pass Dropped           3                       6.3                             2.8
Poor Throw            15                      31.3                           13.9
Pass Defensed        10                     20.8                             9.3
Pass Hit at Line       3                       6.3                             2.8
Other                    16                     33.3                            14.8
Intercepted             1                       2.1                              0.9

Posted by Observer Sports on September 27, 2006 at 02:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 21, 2006

Discussing experience at linebacker; Keyshawn and the Bucs

Just a thought: But the linebacker corps looks so lost, why not shift Chris Draft to the middle and put Na’il Diggs on the weak side? At least that would mean more experience at linebacker. Draft isn’t anywhere close to the injured Dan Morgan in terms of athletic ability, but he’s got a much better sense of what’s going on than Adam Seward, who started last week. Diggs is no Will Witherspoon, but he’s a veteran and should at least be able to get into the right spots to make some tackles against the running game. A little more experience at the other two positions might allow strong side linebacker Thomas Davis to progress a little faster.

Don’t be so certain the offensive line the Panthers used last week will remain the same for long. The Panthers are trying to find the right combination, which could mean another shot for Evan Mathis at right guard or a look at Jeremy Bridges at right tackle.

Keyshawn Johnson didn’t disappoint. After weeks of saying he wasn’t going to talk about his time in Tampa Bay before the Panthers played the Bucs, guess what Johnson did Wednesday? Yep, he talked about the Bucs. Extensively. Read tomorrow’s Observer to hear Johnson’s comments. Also, if you’ve got Sirius NFL Radio, listen to his show at 7 p.m. Thursday. The show’s an hour long, so even if Johnson tries to steer clear of talking about Tampa Bay, chances are good he won’t be able to pull it off.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 21, 2006 at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 20, 2006

On Foster starting and other musings


Coach John Fox said Monday that DeShaun Foster remains the starting running back.

   Translation: Foster will get the start as a courtesy the next few games. But DeAngelo Williams will continue to get more and more carries. Barring a sudden awakening by Foster, Williams will take over the starting role by midseason.

   It’s the same thing as last year when Stephen Davis remained the starter far longer than he should have. Fox believes in giving veterans courtesy and Foster may deserve some. But the fact is he’s averaging 2.9 yards a carry and Williams is averaging 5.7.


Remember all the preseason talk about how the “old” Keary Colbert was back? He is, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Colbert’s the same player he was a year ago when he was basically invisible in the passing game. Colbert has three catches for 32 yards. With Steve Smith out with an injury, Colbert hasn’t exactly taken advantage of the opportunity. He’s fallen behind Drew Carter on the depth chart. By the way, Ricky Proehl is working for the St. Louis Rams radio broadcast.


Since training camp, Keyshawn Johnson has been saying he won’t talk about his time with the Bucs when the two teams play. That time is upon us because the Panthers face Johnson’s former team this week. Maybe Johnson stays true to his word and stays mum on his 2003 feud with Jon Gruden. But keep this in mind: After joining the Bucs, Johnson insisted he wouldn’t talk about his days with the Jets. But he gave in shortly before a game with New York and that’s when he compared Wayne Chrbet to a “flashlight.’’


Wide receiver Steve Smith recently was on Sirius NFL Radio and emphatically shot down a speculative item on profootballtalk.com that said his missing time with injury might be a way of making a statement that he's unhappy he hasn't been given a contract extension.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 20, 2006 at 10:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

September 14, 2006

A look at the Panthers' "dead money"

What do Keith Adams, Brentson Buckner, Stephen Davis, Atiyyah Ellison, Stefan LeFors, Bruce Nelson, Brandon Short, Rod Smart and Sean Tufts have in common?

Other than the fact they’re all former Panthers, they’re also each costing the team six (and in Davis’ case, seven) figures against this year’s $102 million salary cap.

The Panthers have just over $4 million in available cap space ($1 million less than the league average), but they’d have a lot more without "dead money’’. That’s the cap space taken up by players no longer on the roster. Here’s a run down of dead money for the Panthers - unofficially about about $4.7 million:

Keith Adams $104,000

Lorenzo Alexander $15,170

Chad Beasley $2,000

Joe Berger $37,735

Aaron Boone $54,748 (injury grievance)

Jovon Bouknight $3,333

Brentson Buckner $993,000

Jarrett Bush $6,666

Steve Cheek $15,000

Matt Cherry $2,000

Casey Cramer $4,950

Stephen Davis $1.2 million

Jon Doty $5,000

Atiyyah Ellison $319,950

Ben Emanuel $68,000

Bill Ferrario $50,000

Shannon Fitzhugh $2,000

Otis Grigsby $2,000

William Hampton $27,500

Jermaine Hardy $5,170

Phil Hawkins $2,000

Jovan Haye $30,085

Efrem Hill $14,333

Lynzell Jackson $2,000

Corey Jenkins $12,500

Micah Knorr $30,170

Marcus Lawrence $9,333

Stefan LeFors $110,730

Devan Long $12, 255

Justin McCullum $1,666

Lornell McPherson $3,333

Sean Mulcahy $31,765 (injury settlement)

Bruce Nelson $335,000

Jared Peck $2,000

Jammal Robertson $35,000

Micah Ross $25,000

Brandon Short $500,000

Rod Smart $282,000

Daniel Smith $1,666

Adam Stenavich $6,666

Taylor Stubblefield $10,000

Albert Toeaina $2,333

Sean Tufts $305,720 (injury settlement)

Michael Watson $6,667

Posted by Observer Sports on September 14, 2006 at 10:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Panthers worked out receivers

Besides quarterbak Drew Henson, the Panthers also worked out two wide receivers Tuesday. But don't expect Josh Davis or Brandon Rideau to join the team anytime soon. They're on the emergency list if there are injuries at receiver, but their main purpose for being at the workout was giving Henson someone to throw to.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 14, 2006 at 12:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

September 13, 2006

Second guessing the Panthers, because everyone is

   It’s easy now to second guess the Panthers decision not to welcome tackle Adam Meadows with open arms when he decided to end his retirement in July. In fact, we’d be negligent if we didn’t do some second guessing here.
   Meadows was, at least at one point in his career, a solid left tackle. That’s something the Panthers desperately need after losing Travelle Wharton to a season-ending knee injury. For the record, Meadows ended up with Denver. He was on the inactive list Sunday.
   The Panthers may have some regrets about not bringing Meadows back. But their reasoning, at the time, was valid. Meadows was signed in 2004, but retired in training camp because of shoulder problems. There were a lot of hard feelings throughout the organization because the consensus was Meadows’ injury was something he could have played through, but elected not to. When the Panthers made their decision the second time around, there was a feeling that a lot of people in the organization never would forgive Meadows.
  MORE SECOND GUESSING: Since second guessing seems to be the most popular sport in Charlotte this week, let’s do some more. The other popular bit of revisionist history that’s getting lots of play is the fact the Panthers kept linebacker Dan Morgan and let Will Witherspoon go. You can make a very strong argument that was a mistake. But just so you understand how it happened: The Panthers were talking contract extension with both linebackers during training camp last year. Offers were on the table to both and Morgan happened to be the first to accept, and that pretty much ended any chance of Witherspoon re-signing. The Panthers were going to pay big money to only one linebacker, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they paid the right one.
     THE GREAT INDOORS: Just a hunch, but if there’s still doubt about Steve Smith’s hamstring, he won’t play Sunday in Minnesota. The Panthers don’t want him running around on artificial turf with an iffy hamstring because it could turn a temporary injury into a season-long one.
   EMERGENCY PLANS: Don’t read too much into the fact the Panthers worked out quarterback Drew Henson on Tuesday. They work out players all the time just to update their emergency lists. Then again, if the Panthers don’t straighten out their offensive line pretty quickly, they could have lots of emergencies at quarterback.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 13, 2006 at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

September 06, 2006

Falcons' Hall rips on Steve Smith

   Perhaps the dumbest thing you can do is provoke Panthers receiver Steve Smith. Just ask Fred Smoot, who took a few shots against Smith before last season's game against Minnesota and got lit up.

   Apparently, Atlanta cornerback DeAngelo Hall didn’t get the memo. Hall, who used to be a close friend of Smith’s, had some strong comments in Wednesday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Hall said he won’t be Smith’s friend Sunday, and said he’d welcome the opportunity to put a big hit on Smith.

   Colleague Tom Sorensen is going to have a full column on this in Thursday’s Observer, complete with Smith’s reaction. But here are a couple of samples of Smith’s response:

   “This is a business. That’s the way football is. I’m happy he’s grown up and realized that. Football is football. I find it really comedy …I guess when you’re on the top, you have a lot of people trying to knock you down. Some people are lower than others on the totem pole by age, performance and talk. When you’re the court jester and you’re talking to the king, you’ve got to do stuff like that."


    “I’m not going to play games with little kids. There’s no reason to. When you talk, you obviously are insecure about something and if you talk long enough, you’ll hang yourself.’’


   “If that’s the kind of game he’s trying to play, he’s barking up the wrong tree. It’s a big a-- tree."

Posted by Observer Sports on September 6, 2006 at 03:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

September 05, 2006

Smith says he and Gamble will share punt returns

Coach John Fox won’t say who’s going to return punts, but Steve Smith will.

In a Tuesday evening interview on Sirius NFL Radio, Smith said he’ll share the job with cornerback Chris Gamble and the two will determine how many punts each will handle at their "own discretion."

Smith, bothered by a hamstring injury and an in-grown toenail in the preseason, said his physical status will play a role in determining the punt return ratio early in the season.

If he’s healthy, Smith said he and Gamble will take turns and much will depend on how the game is going. For instance, Smith said, if he’s catching a lot of passes and the offense has been on the field a lot, he’ll let Gamble return punts. On the flip side, Smith said he’d handle returns if Gamble had to cover a bunch of long routes on defense.

Smith handled most punt returns last season, but the Panthers want to lighten his load. They gave Efrem Hill an opportunity to win the job in the preseason, but he was released.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 5, 2006 at 09:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

September 04, 2006

Two-QB system not as rare as you might think

There’s been a lot made about the "risky’’ decision the Panthers made to go with only two quarterbacks (Jake Delhomme and Chris Weinke) on their roster. They do have Brett Basanez on the practice squad, but he can’t be activated during a game.

But this move might not be as risky as it sounds. If you look back to last year, it’s rare for a No. 3 quarterback to get into a game. It happened only six times in the regular season and once in the playoffs. Most of those appearances were purely mop-up duty.

In fact, the only time a third quarterback was pressed into duty because of injuries or problems with the other two quarterbacks was when Arizona’s John Navarre played the entire second half of a loss to Houston.

Here’s a look at the circumstances surrounding every one of last year’s appearances by a third quarterback:

Sept. 18, 2005: Philadelphia’s Mike McMahon got some fourth-quarter, mop-up duty behind Donovan McNabb and Koy Detmer in a 42-3 victory against San Francisco. He completed his only pass.

Oct. 2, 2005: New England’s Matt Cassel relieved starter Tom Brady in the fourth quarter of an ugly 41-17 loss to San Diego. Cassel was inserted over backup Doug Flutie, who did not play.

Nov. 14, 2005: McMahon was designated as the inactive third QB , but entered the game in the fourth quarter against Dallas after McNabb was injured. McMahon was inserted into the game ahead of Detmer and completed two of five passes in a 21-20 loss. McMahon helped put David Akers into position for a 60-yard field goal attempt that came up short at the end of the game.

Nov. 24, 2005: Detroit’s Dan Orlovsky got to play the final drive of a 27-7 loss to Atlanta. Joey Harrington started that game, but was dismal. He was yanked in favor of Jeff Garcia in the first half, but Garcia couldn’t spark the Lions and Orlovsky got his playing time after virtually everyone had left Ford Field.

Dec. 18, 2005: Arizona’s John Navarre entered the game at the start of the second half after Kurt Warner suffered a knee injury and Josh McCown battled an illness. McCown had entered the game early in the second quarter after Warner’s injury, but was unable to continue after completing just one of four passes. Houston held a 27-10 lead when Navarre entered the game. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 174 yards with a touchdown and an interception and the Texans defeated the Cardinals 30-19.

Jan. 1, 2006: New England’s Flutie was designated the third quarterback and got to play, but not really as a quarterback. Flutie’s brief appearance was a last hurrah as he drop kicked a field goal in a 28-26 loss to Miami. With a playoff spot secure, the Patriots took Brady out after the first quarter and let Cassel play the rest of the way.

Jan. 7, 2006: New England sent Cassel in for Brady and he took the final two snaps of a playoff victory against Jacksonville.

SHELTON NOT ON I.R. There's been a minor stir since NFL.com posted in its Sunday transactions that the Panthers placed running back Eric Shelton on the injured reserve list. The fact is, they have NOT. It was a glitch, likely stemming from the fact Shelton was placed on the list at this time a year ago. Shelton is on the 53-man active roster.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 4, 2006 at 10:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)