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May 30, 2008

Q&A with rookie OT Jeff Otah

Here's a Q&A with Panthers rookie offensive tackle Jeff Otah, a first-round draft pick who hasn't practiced with the team yet because of a high-ankle sprain, which he's continuing to recover from. Otah hurt the ankle in preseason camp before his final season at the University of Pittsburgh and played hurt the entire 2007 season. Otah spoke with reporters after Thursday's summer-school practice, when he worked out on his own on the sideline with a Panthers trainer.

Q. How's the ankle feel and when do you think you'll be able to practice?

It's feeling really good right now, it's getting better. I'm just doing what the trainers tell me. You always want to be out there with your teammates, working at getting better. But right the now trainers say to let the ankle heal up.

Q. How tough was it to play last season at Pitt and was the injury severe enough to make you miss any games?

It was hard during the season last year, but the trainers at the University of Pittsburgh really helped me out to get me to play games. It never was that close (to missing games), but there were times... But the team needed me to go out and play, so I had had to suck it up. It never healed up but I kept on playing.

Q. How well have you been able to pick up plays with the Panthers by just being in meetings and not being able to practice?

It all starts in the meeting room, that's where you learn your plays. I'm glad I'm getting an opportunity to learn those plays.

I've learned it's a fast game and you've got to know what you’re doing.

Q. The Panthers traded next season's first-round pick to get a chance to draft you in this year's first round. Any pressure on you, knowing they gave up that much?

You're always going to feel pressure being a first-round pick. But I don't really feel any pressure. If I was taken in the fifth round, I'd come in here and work my butt off.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 30, 2008 at 01:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (63)

May 29, 2008

No timetable on when rookie Otah will practice

For those of you worried when - or even if - rookie offensive tackle Jeff Otah will start practicing with the Panthers, it could be sooner rather than later.

Otah, one of the team's two first-round draft picks, has an ankle injury that's been bothering him for several months. He hasn't suited up for this week's summer school practices, nor did he for minicamp earlir this month.

But - dressed in a jersey, sweatpants and cleats - Otah has been doing individual workouts this week involving speed and agility on the sidelines. His ankle doesn't appear to be hindering him - at least he's not limping. But there's no sure way to tell and Otah hasn't spoken with the media.

Coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney - who hope Otah will develop quickly into the team's starting right tackle - haven't put a timetable on when Otah will first practice. And it might not even until training camp.

But it looks like he's working hard to get there as quickly as possible.

- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on May 29, 2008 at 01:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

May 28, 2008

Delhomme takes reps with first team

A few notes from the Panthers' first session of "summer school" Wednesday morning:

  • Quarterback Jake Delhomme participated in the hour-long session, taking a more active role than he did in minicamp earlier this month (when he only threw passes with the other quarterbacks). He threw about 40 passes Wednesday while going through some drills with the first team. Delhomme said his elbow, which was operated on in October, felt fine.
  • Offensive tackle Jeff Otah, one of the Panthers' two first-round picks, didn't practice because of minor ankle injury. He also didn't participate at minicamp. Rookie running back Jonathan Stewart, as expected, wasn't there because school is still in session at Oregon and he's still nursing an injured toe. Linebacker Jon Beason, who was recovering from wrist surgery at minicamp, is back for summer school.
  • Recently retired Mike Minter made a surprise appearance, dressed smartly in a suit and wrap-around sunglasses.

-- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on May 28, 2008 at 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)

May 27, 2008

Panthers re-sign DeLoatch

The Carolina Panthers on Tuesday re-signed backup cornerback Curtis DeLoatch, who played six games last season before injuring his knee against Indianapolis. DeLoatch, who played at N.C. A&T and was born in Murfreesboro, has played for the New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and the Panthers in four seasons as a pro. David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on May 27, 2008 at 05:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

Summer School starts Wesdnesday

A few news items as the Panthers prepare for "summer school" (also known as OTAs), beginning Wednesday on their practice fields next to Bank of America Stadium. No pads or hitting are allowed and the OTAs are closed to the public.

-- Just about everybody will be there, except for top draft pick Jonathan Stewart, who can't make it because school's still in session at Oregon (the Ducks are on the quarter system and NCAA rules prohibit Stewart from attending OTAs until classes are out). Stewart is also out of the protective boot he's been wearing since he had toe surgery earlier this season. He wouldn't have practiced anyway because of the injury.

-- General manager Marty Hurney said quarterback Jake Delhomme, who had offseason elbow surgery and threw a limited number of passes each day in minicamp, will throw again during summer school. "To what extent, we don’t know yet," said Hurney.

-- The Panthers are "standing pat," according to Hurney, on making any roster moves now. Hurney said the team isn’t interested in defensive end Erasmus James, who was recently cut by the Minnesota Vikings. James, 25, is a former first-round pick whose career has been marred by injuries. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on May 27, 2008 at 04:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

May 23, 2008

Re-sign Morgan so he can retire a Panther?

Donald Belk of Cary e-mailed this morning with an intriguing suggestion, asking the Panthers to re-sign linebacker Dan Morgan so he can retire as a Panther, much as they did with Stephen Davis and Steve Beuerlein.

Sure sounds like a good idea, Donald.

If Morgan hadn't suffered numerous concussions and an Achilles tendon injury that ended his career, he probably would've gone down as one of the NFL's best linebackers of this generation.

The Panthers released Morgan earlier this year and he signed with the Saints, but announced his retirement last week because the Achilles injury wasn't healing as he'd hoped.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on May 23, 2008 at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (74)

May 22, 2008

OT: Touched by a tragedy

This blog is usually reserved for topics concerning the Panthers and the NFL.

Today, however, I want to share something with you that has nothing to do with football.

Shortly after awakening this morning, I learned the tragic news that a 5-year girl named Maria, adopted from China by a loving Christian family, was killed accidentally at about 5:30 p.m. yesterday in the driveway of her Nashville, Tenn., home when she was struck by an SUV driven by her teenage brother. He didn't see her. Several members of the family witnessed the accident, but were helpless to stop it.

Maria's daddy is a contemporary Christian singer named Steven Curtis Chapman. You may have heard of him. His songs are known all over the country and world. So is the ministry he and his wife Mary Beth started to encourage and assist families with international adoptions.

Steven and Mary Beth had three children of their own when they first adopted a daughter from China. Maria was the third little girl from China they rescued from an orphanage to become their daughter.

Their family has had tremendous impact on mine. A few years ago, my wife, Susan, came home from a women's conference with a pamphlet describing the opportunity to host a child from a Russian orphanage for one summer month. Though we were childless, I was skeptical.

Then, almost certainly by divine intervention, I was given free tickets to a Steven Curtis Chapman concert in Charlotte by a friend who knew nothing about the pamphlet. I accepted and was profoundly impacted. Chapman spent a considerable amount of time singing and talking about his experience with adoption. He explained that caring for the fatherless is so much a part of the heart of God.

When I returned home that night, my wife and I decided to host a child from Russia.

That was about three years ago. Now, the little girl we hosted is our daughter, Elena. She is a beautiful 11-year-old princess. It is an honor and a joy beyond description to be her dad.

I honestly don't know if she'd be here if not for hearing Steven Curtis Chapman's testimony and being touched that night at the concert by the songs he'd written about adoption.

So, I was compelled to tell you about what happened to little Maria Chapman yesterday. Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on May 22, 2008 at 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (56)

May 19, 2008

Dan Morgan retires

Linebacker Dan Morgan announced his retirement today, according to the New Orleans Saints, who had signed him Mar. 11 as a free agent.

Morgan had played his entire seven-year career as a Panther. He missed the final 13 games of 2007 with a partial tear of an Achilles tendon, and had battled through other injuries -- including five concussions -- in recent seasons.

"When we signed Dan, he was committed to making a fresh start, and he was making every effort to rehabilitate the leg injury that he suffered last year," said Coach Sean Payton in a statement. "But it wasn't responding as well as he had hoped it would. We wish him well in his continued recovery, and he will be remembered for the excellent player he was during his career."

Morgan was picked by Carolina in the first round of the 2001 draft out of the University of Miami. He had a career total of 452 tackles, started 59 games and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2004. -- STAN OLSON

Posted by Observer Sports on May 19, 2008 at 07:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (93)

New QB aboard

0519ricard The Panthers just announced that they've signed Lester Ricard, a free agent quarterback who spent the 2007 season on Jacksonville's practice squad after going undrafted. He started out at LSU, then transferred to Tulane. Ricard, 24, was a three-year starter for the Green Wave. He totaled 6,668 passing yards, 55 touchdowns and 31 interceptions in his college career.

He'll fit right in with the Panthers' other quarterbacks -- none of them were drafted. At 6-4, 228, he's the biggest of the bunch.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on May 19, 2008 at 02:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (93)

May 16, 2008

A real Super Bowl run

    So now we know that Carolina coach John Fox is determined to build around a power rushing game, and that the Panthers believe -- along with all of the problems at quarterback, that the lack of a consistent ground attack is a main reason the Panthers stumbled to a 7-9 finish a year ago.

    Since then, the team has bulked up and beefed up, and you know Fox never wants to have to throw on third-and-1 again.

    Does a strong running game translate into postseason success?

    It did for the 2003 Panthers, who reached the Super Bowl on the back of RB Stephen Davis and averaged 130.7 regular-season rushing yards, their highest mark ever. Last season, Carolina averaged 114.0 ground yards, 14th-best in the NFL.

    For comparison, I thought I'd take a look at the last ten SB champs, and see where they finished on the league rushing list.

    There is a correlation; six of those ten finished among the league's top seven in rushing, and five of those six were in the top five, with Denver, which won the 2000 Super Bowl, the highest of the bunch at 
second (154.2).

    Then again, Tampa Bay and New England finished a dismal 27th but went on to win the 2003 and '04 Super Bowls, respectively.

-- Stan Olson

Super Bowl rush

   The last ten Super Bowl winners, and their regular-season rushing 
averages and league rankings. The year is when the SB was actually 
played, with rushing numbers from the regular-season preceding it:
    2008: Giants, 134.2, (4)
    2007: Colts, 110.1 (18)
    2006: Steelers, 138.9 (5)
    2005: Patriots, 133.4 (7)
    2004: Patriots, 100.4 (27)
    2003: Bucs, 97.3 (27)
    2002: Patriots, 112.1, (13)
    2001: Ravens, 137.4 (5)
    2000: Rams, 128.7 (5)
    1999: Broncos, 154.2 (2)

Posted by Observer Sports on May 16, 2008 at 03:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (58)