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June 30, 2008

Panthers signing rookies

The Carolina Panthers are in the early stages of signing their rookie draft choices. General manager Marty Hurney said Monday there's nothing yet to report on the team's two first-round picks -- running back Jonathan Stewart and offensive tackle Jeff Otah. Hurney did say he expects an agreement to be reached this week with sixth-round choice Nick Hayden, a defensive tackle from Wisconsin. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on June 30, 2008 at 05:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (60)

June 25, 2008

One prediction: 10-6, NFC South champs

    The Panthers' 2008 bandwagon is getting more crowded, but at least these guys took a scientific stab at how Carolina will do this season. 

We're talking about WhatifSports.com's look at the NFC South. The website uses simulation software to determine how teams will perform, based on a huge number of factors.

    And the software says Carolina will win the division with a 10-6 record. It also offers an "absolute best record," and for this Carolina team, that would be 13-3.  According to the software program's results, the Panthers will average 25.7 points while allowing 20.5 while taking on a schedule that features only five 2007 playoff teams.

    The site also believes that RB Jonathan Stewart will be the team's most significant newcomer, and even picks him as the NFL's Rookie of the Year. It calls rookie TE Gary Barnidge a possible fantasy sleeper.

    The rest of the division doesn't fare nearly as well. The Saints and Buccaneers are projected to finish 8-8, while Atlanta is targeted for 5-11. And it could be worse for you Falcons fans, Atlanta's absolute record is 1-15.

-- Stan Olson

Posted by Observer Sports on June 25, 2008 at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (78)

June 24, 2008

Brayton's claim to "fame"

    We've got a story on new Panthers DE Tyler Brayton set to go in tomorrow's paper, so it seems to be the right time for another Brayton anecdote.

    Before Carolina landed him as a free agent, Brayton was with Oakland, and his claim to fame with folks in our area was probably his altercation with Seattle TE Jerramy Stevens on Monday Night Football in 2006.

    With the country watching, Brayton kneed Stevens in the groin area.

He was thrown out of the game and after the league reviewed the incident, fined $25,000. Asked about it during OTAs recently, Brayton didn't dodge the question.

    "I guess I'll address this one time and one time only with you guys,"  he told two reporters. "How far in the past is that? Two or three years? It was just one of those things where football is an emotional game, and you can't let your emotions get the best of you. But they did on that night. Things got out of hand.

      "For that I apologize. And I've apologized before. I'm just moving forward, learning from that experience and keeping my emotions in check."

    --Stan Olson

Posted by Observer Sports on June 24, 2008 at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)

June 23, 2008

Jarrett pleads guilty to DWI

    Now maybe Dwayne Jarrett can get on with his life.

    Jarrett, the Panthers' second-year wide receiver, took responsibility for his March 11 driving while impaired arrest at his Mecklenburg County District Court appearance Monday, pleading guilty to the charge and surrendered his driver's license. He was ordered to pay $420 in court costs and perform 24 hours of community service. He will also enter the first stage of the NFL's substance abuse program. That means he will be subject to more frequent tests for drugs and alcohol.

    Young guys make mistakes, and too many of them involve drinking and driving. Fortunately, Jarrett's incident didn't hurt anyone. And the Panthers have made it clear to him that they expect no more such problems in the future.

    Jarrett addressed the issue earlier this month, telling reporters following an offseason training activity workout, "I was more disappointed in myself than anything.  And something like that definitely adds on to the pressure that you already have (on the field). I'm strong and it won't hold me down."

    Many observers believe that Jarrett has improved dramatically from the disappointment who caught six passes in his rookie season of 2007.

Now that must carry over into his personal life as well. He's saying the right things and not making excuses; now he must act on them.

-- Stan Olson

Posted by Observer Sports on June 23, 2008 at 01:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

June 17, 2008

Panthers claim center off waivers

The Carolina Panthers claimed center Pat Ross off waivers Tuesday. Ross (6-foot-3, 305 pounds), who played at Boston College, wasn't drafted in 2006 but has been on practice squads in New England, Seattle and Indianapolis. The Panthers also waived offensive lineman Eric Tunney.

-- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on June 17, 2008 at 03:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (105)

Answering your Panthers questions

    Noticed some interesting questions on the last blog, and I now "pronounce myself pleased" to speak on a couple (sorry).

    First, I think Ben was wondering about the new safety, Charles Godfrey. Given the fact that we usually watch practice from a two-field distance, it's often hard to get the same grasp on players that training camp (where we're merely a fence away) offers.  But several players have gone out of their way to offer positive comments on Godfrey, and don't forget that Nate Salley is also back after being injured all of last year. Also, Ken Lucas said the coaches have simplified things for CG, given his rookie status.

         On Peppers, no reporter has a clue to what he's currently thinking, because he declined to talk to the media at any point during OTAs despite all our nagging of the media staff. Personally, I believe he will have a huge season. Every great player is entitled to an off- year, and Peppers obviously had one a year ago (2.5 sacks, despite the fact that coaches always say sacks are overrated, is unacceptable). Let's give him a mulligan and see how he does in 2008.

          As for the new guys, in addition to Godfrey, I like what I've seen of WR D.J. Hackett, and my sleeper pick, guard Toniu Fonoti (I'm hoping to learn how to spell that without looking at the roster by midseason) has impressed the guys he's playing with. He seems to have his weight under control, although he is still one huge man at 340-plus, I would guess. A fellow Panther shook his head and said of Fonoti, "That guy's simply a beast."

    Enjoy your summer, guys, and we'll be stopping by when we think of something to say.


-- Stan Olson

Posted by Observer Sports on June 17, 2008 at 11:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (42)

June 13, 2008

Tampa's on Panthers' minds

When the Panthers broke their final huddle around coach John Fox at  the end of Thursday's wrapup OTA, they shouted "Tampa."

They weren't sounding a warning for their NFC South Division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers; their thoughts went considerably beyond that.

"Tampa; yeah, it's where the Super Bowl is," said RB DeAngelo  Williams a few minutes later, laughing. "It's getting our minds set.  We've come along this year a lot faster than last year as far as jelling as a team. We're complementing each other, know what each other's going to do before they do it. And it really makes you effective and it keeps the defense on their heels.

"We're going to be a really hard offense to stop this year, with our wide receivers on the edge, having Jake (quarterback Delhomme) back and having the offensive line that we have."

Hey, OTAs went well, and even if every other team thinks it did just as well, might as well aim high...
--Williams, by the way, is hosting a paintball tournament where the winner will play Williams and some of his Panthers teammates. Proceeds going to his foundation, which funds education concerning breast cancer for women and also helps pay for the treatment of those who can't afford it. For more information, go to the website, www.armyoften.com.
--There were some interesting comments to the previous Inside the Panthers post. One point that our readers cleared up and we should  have touched on here before is the fact -- pointed out by several alert posters -- that centers, like the 300-pound Ryan Kalil -- don't have to be huge to be effective, relying more on technique and combination blocks. Kalil's size is fine, and we should have made that point in all our talk about this huge new line. We read you guys, and often learn something -- like maybe I shouldn't use the phrase, "pronounced  himself pleased."  Ahh, I'll probably slip it in again somewhere, or  at least, "pronounced himself ticked off."


Posted by Observer Sports on June 13, 2008 at 11:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (39)

June 12, 2008

Fox: I'm pleased so far

680panthers_05highlight_largeprod_a The Panthers wrapped up their three weeks of offseason training activities workouts this morning, and coach John Fox pronounced himself pleased with what he had seen. The fourth week was called off, but it always is, and now players and officials will scatter to visit family and friends, take vacations and relax while they await the opening of training camp in Spartanburg July 25.

Fox pronounced himself pleased with the workouts, and our David Scott will have more on what was accomplished in Friday's Observer.

On the makeover of the offensive line, one of the biggest storylines of this season, Fox said after the workout, "I think we've made a conscious effort to get bigger up there, and I don't think we'll get a true idea of that until we get into pads and evaluate guys moving forward. Again, there's a lot of new faces there, but they've been very productive as far as how they've moved along in our system."

Fox also mentioned that RB Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers' top draft pick, is out of the boot he's had to wear for a lingering toe injury and is making good progress in his recovery. Stewart missed the OTAs because his school is on the quarter system and wasn't finished in time, but he could not have practiced anyway with the injury. He's expected to be ready to go for training camp.

A sprint to the finish

The final day of OTAs is always fun (at least for those of us who don't have to participate}, because the coaches make the players do a series of sprints back and forth across the turf practice field. They run from side to side and back twice, get a short break and do it again. After another break, they do it a third time. The linemen ran first, and Jordan Gross -- just about the only member of the O-line who hasn't bulked up from last year, started out blowing everyone away.

By the third set, though, DE Charles Johnson took control. The whole time, it appeared that DE Julius Peppers, with his long easy strides, could have stepped it up and won the thing, but he seemed content to stay in the middle of the pack.

In the other groups, the wide receivers, running backs, punters and kickers were dominated early by P Jason Baker and later by WR Steve Smith, who appears to be in remarkable shape.

The linebackers and defensive backs also ran together, and were noticeable primarily for the amount of yakking LB Tim Shaw did WHILE he was running.

Sleeper to watch

Now we wait for July 25 and, if possible, go to the beach. This is going to be an interesting team to watch. Want a sleeper to tell your friends about? Try free agent signee Toniu Fonoti. He appears to have boiled the much of the fat off of a body that has Pro Bowl ability when in shape, and could be the surprise of the O-line.

--Stan Olson

Posted by Observer Sports on June 12, 2008 at 12:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (62)

June 11, 2008

Panthers wrapping up early

King The "four weeks" of Panthers' offseason training activities workouts wrap up Thursday -- after three weeks.

That's the way it always happens in the John Fox era; the coaches hold up the carrot of bagging that last week if things go well in the first three, and every year, things seem to go well enough for that to happen. So much so that the players always talk about that fourth week with a smile.

"We sort of plan on it anyway," fullback Brad Hoover said after today's workout, grinning. "If he was to change it, we'd be in trouble. Some trips would be canceled, and things like that. The real truth is that they (the coaches) want to get out of here too. It's not us, so much as it's them."

That prompted laughter all around.

A few minutes earlier, tight end Jeff King had said, "I assume if we tanked it and didn't come out and practice well, practice hard, that we would go into that fourth week. But (Fox) says if participation is good and we practice hard, that fourth week is at his discretion. Get out of here a week early, yeah, it's definitely an incentive."

Then King smiled as well.

"I think his car's running," he said of the boss.

With tomorrow wrapping things up until training camp, Fox will give his take on the workouts, which are performed without pads. Perhaps the two most important aspects were that while players were learning about each other and the team's schemes, quarterback Jake Delhomme's arm looked as good as ever and there were no significant injuries.


Posted by Observer staff on June 11, 2008 at 12:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

June 10, 2008

Heat's not bad -- for coaches

The most noticeable thing about the Panthers' offseason training activities has been the heat. With temperatures pushing triple digits, Charlotte in early June has felt like Spartanburg in late July and August, where the team goes through training camp. Call it Spartanburg Lite.

The players don't like it; it's not much fun to run around with a helmet on while the thermometer reads 98 degrees. The coaches, though, have a different perspective.

"Your body's about climatizing, and probably the more you can expose yourself to that heat and humidity, even though we're not in pads yet, I think this helps your body get more used to it," coach John Fox said following today's workout. "So I really think it's been kind of a bonus for us as we prepare for Spartanburg."

Some of the players, despite a desire to get out of the sun, did stop and talk. A few moments earlier, offensive tackle Jordan Gross was asked what he had seen in rookie tackle Jeff Otah, one of Carolina's two first-round draft choices.

"He's just a huge guy that can move, and I don't think you can find that every day," Gross said. "I came in as a rookie and played the same position (right tackle) and he's got a lot to learn and a long way to go, but he's definitely more than capable. I think he can be a really good player for us. "And the thing I'm excited about is we've got a lot of youth and talent now; hopefully we can have the same lineup for a few years in a row."


Posted by Observer Sports on June 10, 2008 at 12:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)