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September 30, 2008

Panthers add OT to practice squad

The Panthers signed offensive tackle Jonathan Palmer to their practice squad Tuesday and released fullback Billy Latsko. The addition of Palmer -- an undrafted free agent in 2007 out of Auburn who spent time with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Oakland last season -- will give the Panthers' injury-plagued offensive line more bodies to practice with this week. Tackle Jordan Gross (concussion) will probably miss Sunday's game with Kansas City and tackle Jeff Otah had to leave last week's victory against Atlanta with a sprained ankle. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on September 30, 2008 at 09:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

September 29, 2008

Fox Q&A

Here's the transcript from coach John Fox's news conference with reporters Monday:

Q. You've had to use your depth on the offensive line -- bringing in Geoff Hangartner, Jeremy Bridges and moving Travelle Wharton from guard to tackle -- because of injuries. How has that worked out?

"It's happened twice so far in our four games. Both times those backups responded well. Typically we go into a game with seven linemen dressed -- five starters and two backups. We were at that limit. The next was Jeff King and I wasn't comfortable with that. It's like our third quarterback. I won't mention who that is, but I'm not real comfortable with that, either."

Q. Will you rethink how many offensive linemen you dress this week?

"We're always rethinking things. You have no idea what will happen in a game. You can have a barrage of injuries in one spot and anybody and everybody is in trouble as far as having guys who have reps in practice. You try your best to be prepared and hopefully the players respond."

Q. How much work do those guys get with the starters in practice?

" It's very limited, I'd say 20 to 30 percent of our offensive reps. Now they're on service teams, but as far as running our plays for that game that week, 20 or 30 percent. That would have been far less for Travelle, since he was coming back from an injury. So he had far less reps last week as a guard. He's played there in the past and that's helpful."

Q. Most of those guys have played different spots on the offensive line. Is that helping?

"That's what happens when you start developing players. Travelle's been with us. Jordan (Gross) has been with us. Ryan Kalil is only in his second year, but he's a guy who's been trained. A lot has been made of us having guys in different spots in the offseason, but at least they've been with us. A lot was made of us having four quarterbacks (last season), but the problem was they hadn't been with us, even in training camp. When your guys who are 2, 3 and 4 (on the depth chart) signed just a few weeks ago, it's harder. And don't forget we're starting a rookie (Jeff Otah) at right tackle. He wasn't here last year. It's lucky we have had to move him around."

Q. Kansas City won its first game Sunday, upsetting Denver. What does that say about the Chiefs?

"That everybody's pretty much the same. You didn't think Washington would beat Dallas or that Kansas City would beat Denver. It goes on every week. You've got to realize you've got to show up and we do that each and every week. We'll do it this week with Kansas City. We've seen them on tape, because they played Atlanta last week. So we're a little bit familiar with them without game planning yet. They're a physical group, they have an outstanding running back (Larry Johnson) and have a pretty salty defense and they've been around for some time, staff wise. It'll be another tough test."

Q. You've held down some strong running backs like Atlanta's Michael Turner and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. Now you've got Larry Johnson. What's it like to face top runners each week?

"It's the National Football League. We've got a murderer's row again this week. Every week you turn on the tape, and it's one of the things we do, we don't look at records or preseason picks, we look at how people play. Those people put up almost 200 (yards on Denver) yesterday against a pretty good team that possesses the ball. It'll be one more test. I think we've done an adequate job in the first four games, but there's still room for improvement. We're not going to be polishing our stars by any stretch as we prepare for Kansas City."

Q. What have you done well in run defense?

"Well, we're one-fourth through the season and it's like where you are when you're through one quarter of a game. We've got to keep trusting our fits and trusting where we've got to go and get consistently better."

Q. Why did the special teams struggle against the Falcons?

"It happens. The other team practices too, they get paid. We had an error by our punter and he'd like to have that one back. He's been pretty darn good for us over the first four games. A couple of people wanted me to fire some people last week, but they came out and played pretty well. It's an up and down profession and guys bounce back. I'm sure our punter will bounce back and be much better this week." Q. The Panthers had 11 penalties against the Falcons. Your reaction to that?

"You'd like to have none, but that doesn't happen very often. You continue to emphasize it and hopefully eliminate it."

Q. What's your reaction to leading the league in penalties?

" I'm more concerned with our record than stats. The most important stat is that W and L column and it always will be. I think I've said before that stats are for losers."

Q. How important is it to run successfully so you can set up the pass?

"That's something something we think through. Again, a lot of times when you say you want to run the ball, people think you're talking about 3 yards and a cloud of dust. But that's not always the case. You have to do both and do both efficiently. Most teams say they need to stop the run and be physical enough to run the ball. Sometimes when you can't get the run going, the defense is more susceptible in another area and you need to be be effective in that area. We weren't effective there two weeks ago and we were more effective (Sunday)."

Q. You and Chiefs coach Herm Edwards were teammates at San Diego State. What kind of a player was he?

" Herm was a very good player and teammate. I think he's doing a fine job coaching, too. He was a real good cover guy, he wasn't the fastest or strongest guy, but he had great instincts and was actually a great interceptor of the ball. That's why he was able to play so long (in the NFL). He was a very smart, headsy player."

Q. Did you sense that he'd be a coach one day?

"I'm not sure either one of us had a sense that either one of us would be a coach. Of course, I'm not sure how many people have any sense at all."

Q. What do you think Herm will say when he's asked about you as a player?

"I have absolutely no idea."

Posted by Observer Sports on September 29, 2008 at 07:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)

Gross likely to miss game for first time

Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross is likely to miss the first game of his NFL career next Sunday when the Carolina Panthers host the Kansas City Chiefs.

Gross suffered a concussion in the first quarter of the Panthers’ 24-9 win over Atlanta and lost consciousness for several minutes. He eventually regained consciousness and was carted off the field into the locker room.

According to the American Academy of Neurology’s parameters for managing concussions in sports, athletes who lose consciousness for a matter of minutes are considered to have suffered a Grade 3 concussion, the highest level measured.

And when that happens, the guidelines recommend a two-week wait before an athlete returns to play, provided there are no more symptoms of a concussion.

Carolina coach John Fox said Monday that team officials were waiting to hear from their doctors regarding Gross’ status.

Based on the guidelines, however, it is expected that Gross won’t play against the Chiefs and could also miss the Oct. 12 game at Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers and Panthers currently are tied for first place in the NFC South Division with 3-1 records.

Counting the playoffs, Gross has made 91 consecutive starts for the Panthers since he was picked in the first round of the 2003 draft.

Gross had made a cut block and had fallen to the ground when Falcons linebacker Michael Boley accidentally kneed him in the head.

Gross was laying facedown and motionless for several minutes before regaining consciousness and rolling over on his back. The Panthers sent for a stretcher to carry him off the field, but then sent it away. He was sitting up and waved to the crowd when carted off the field.

Teammates said they saw Gross at halftime and that he was talking.

Fox said it was a scary moment for the Panthers and that the team was grateful that Gross didn’t suffer a neck injury.

Though concussions are common in the NFL, it is relatively rare for a player to be knocked unconscious. According to an NFL study released last year, 61 players lost consciousness after a hit in a six-year period covering the 1996-2001 seasons.


Charles Chandler: (704) 358-5123.


Posted by Observer Sports on September 29, 2008 at 01:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Gross' status depends on what docs say

Panthers coach John Fox didn't have any new information today on the concussion suffered by offensive tackle Jordan Gross in Sunday's 24-9 victory against the Atlanta Falcons.

Fox said he still hasn't received a full report from doctors on the severity of Gross's concussion, which occurred in the first quarter when a Falcons defender's knee hit his head.

"We'll rely on what the doctors say," said Fox. "They'll evaluate him and they're way ahead of where they were 15 years ago with that kind of thing. We'll just rely on what the medical people say and go from there."

Fox didn't know if Gross would play in this Sunday's home game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"I don't think there are hard and fast rules about any injuries, particularly head injuries," said Fox. "I'll err on the side of what medical people say. They're the experts. I would not put somebody in harm's way with any injury."

Fox said he saw Gross after the game.

"He was good," Fox said. "He felt fine. We were really relieved that a neck injury wasn't involved. After that, it's something we can deal with."

-- David Scott 

Posted by Observer Sports on September 29, 2008 at 12:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

September 28, 2008

Postgame questions answered

Q. Why is McCown closing out the game? And why did they get a bad snap penalty on a kneel down??

McCown closed the game to make sure Delhomme didn't further hurt his leg. Delhomme took a knee to his quad in the first quarter, but says it's OK. I asked Ryan Kalil about the snap, but he didn't want to talk about it. I'm sure it's not the kind of thing that would have happened on a play that meant something.


Q. Why do we continue calling draws and screens on 3rd and long?

Remember the sack, fumble and touchdown last week against Minnesota? That was a third down and the Panthers were obviously NOT calling a draw or a screen. Maybe they should have. Bad things can happen on all kinds of calls. Watch some other games next week and see how many other teams also call draws and screens on third down -- it might surprise you!


Q. How long are we going to have suffer through Crossman's tenure as Special Teams coach? Last year, our special teams play was atrocious, and this year it only seem better because of Jones, Stewart and our kick-off specialist. Coverage is still awful, though, and mistakes seem to be the rule rather than the exception.

A. You're right. If there was a downside to this game, special teams was it. A dropped snap, a blocked punt, little in return yardage...not a good day.


Posted by Observer Sports on September 28, 2008 at 07:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

Injuries update

Here's what we know about the Panthers' injuries from Sunday's game:

OT Jordan Gross suffered a concussion. Teammates spoke to him and said he was alert in the locker room at halftime. His status for next week's game against Kansas City isn't known.

OT Jeff Otah said he sprained his right ankle and that it's OK. Otah also said he could have come back in the game if another offensive lineman had gotten hurt.

QB Jake Delhomme took a knee to his quad muscle in the first quarter. He's got a wrap on his leg and said he's OK. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on September 28, 2008 at 05:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

Panthers win, 24-9

   By Charles Chandler


   Two big plays in the passing game helped the Carolina Panthers over the Atlanta Falcons 24-9 Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

   The win raised Carolina’s record to 3-1, the team’s second-best start through four games since reaching 5-0 in its 2003 Super Bowl season.

   The Panthers’ win, coupled with Tampa Bay’s win over Green Bay, left Carolina and the Buccaneers tied in first place in the NFC South Division. It was also the 100th regular-season victory in Panthers’ franchise history.

   Quarterback Jake Delhomme passed for 294 yards, including touchdown passes of 56 yards to Steve Smith and 36 yards to Muhsin Muhammad.

   Carolina overcame injuries to both starting offensive tackles. Left tackle Jordan Gross left in the first period with a head injury, and right tackle Jeff Otah injured his right ankle late in the third quarter.

   To compensate for the losses, left guard Travelle Wharton moved to left tackle, Geoff Hangartner came in to play left guard and Jeremy Bridges took over at right tackle.

   As a sign of the Panthers’ increased depth on the offensive line this season, all three of the aforementioned players have started previously at those positions.

   Carolina’s other touchdown came on an 8-yard run by rookie Jonathan Stewart – his fourth touchdown of the season.

   Atlanta’s only points came on three field goals by veteran kicker Jason Elam. The Falcons fell to 2-2.

   The Panthers’ defense did an especially good job defending running back Michael Turner, who entered the game as the NFL’s  leading rusher. He was held to 56 yards on 18 carries.

   The Panthers play at home again next week against Kansas City.

   Charles Chandler: (704) 358-5123.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 28, 2008 at 04:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

Postgame Q&A

The Panthers have gone to 3-1 with a 24-9 victory against the Falcons. Post questions for Observer beat writers Charles Chandler and David Scott as comments on this post and we'll get to them as soon as we can.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 28, 2008 at 04:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Big numbers

Jake Delhomme's 26-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad early in the third period was Delhomme's 100th TD pass as a Panther and Muhammad's 600th catch with the team.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on September 28, 2008 at 03:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

3rd Quarter Summary (Otah out)

Score: Panthers 17, Falcons 9

John Kasay's 44-yard field goal with 1:39 left in the period was big for Carolina because it stretched the Panthers' lead to  more than a touchdown.

Mostly, it's been a defensive struggle. Carolina is doing a good job defending the NFL's leading rusher, Michael Turner. He has been held to 43 yards on 16 carries.

The Panthers had a 320-201 edge in total yards at the end of the period.

Panthers right tackle Jeff Otah, a first-round draft pick, left the game late in the period with an injured right ankle. His return was said to be questionable. Earlier, in the game, left tackle Jordan Gross left with a head injury.

That means Carolina is playing with only two offensive linemen still at positions as the unit that opened the game (center Geoff Hangartner and left guard Keydrick Vincent).

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on September 28, 2008 at 03:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)