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April 30, 2009

Peppers not expected at minicamp

It appears highly unlikley that franchised defensive end Julius Peppers will attend the Carolina Panthers three-day minicamp opening Friday.

General manager Marty Hurney said he wouldn't want to say definitively that Peppers won't attend until players report Friday.

However, Peppers hasn't signed his contract tender and thus isn't required to attend.

Hurney said he has had productive, albeit inconclusive, talks this week with Peppers' agent, Carl Carey.

"I have had conversations with Carl and they've been positive," Hurney said. "It's part of the process. LIke we've said before, we've been with Julius this past seven years and he's done all he can to help us win game."

Hurney and the Panthers continue to expect that Peppers will play for them next season.

Asked whether he expects Peppers, a four-time Pro Bowler, to report for the start of training in late July or early August, Hurney said: "I don't want to go into our conversations. Our talks have been positive."

Peppers' contract expired after last season. He and Carey said he preferred to move to another team and believed that was necessary in order to reach his maximum potential.

They were hoping the Panthers would not place the franchise tag on Peppers, but the team did.

Other teams could have sought to trade with the Panthers to acquire Peppers before the draft, but none came forward.

It is even less likely now that a team would trade for Peppers, or that the Panthers would entertain an offer, but it is still within the bounds of NFL rules.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on April 30, 2009 at 06:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (44)

April 29, 2009

Reflecting on a great loss

When your boss calls and asks you to get in touch with him "as soon as possible," your mind races.

But of all the possibilities that crossed my mind early yesterday afternoon when that happened, none of them came close to the impact of being told that our co-worker and friend, David Poole, had passed away suddenly of a heart attack.

It was numbing news, and still is today. To think that 24 hours ago from right now (just before 10 a.m. at the time of this writing), David was alive and fresh off covering a NASCAR race at Talladega, and now is no longer with us, is almost beyond comprehension.

We all know that life is fleeting and can be taken from us in a moment, but it is so easy to take that perspective for granted. Death, cold and cruel as it seems, is a stark reminder of that important reality.

It already has been written eloquently by co-workers like Tom Sorensen and Scott Fowler that we will miss David tremendously and we have no idea how we will move forward without him.

He set an example for all of us who cover sports, especially beats. There is a concept of a reporter "owning" a beat. That's when they're the best of the best in their field. Well, David "owned" the NASCAR beat. Just look at the quotes today from people all across the racing world. Look at how they described David -- tough, fair, passionate, dogged, determined, more concerned about what was right than what somebody thought. Those are high compliments, all of which David richly deserved.

Many of us who knew him were concerned about his health. He worked so hard, with such long hours, traveled almost constantly, and was covering such a demanding beat. But how do you tell David Poole to slow down? The man covered racing, after all. And he did so at a pace that matched the sport.

If we could hear from David now, I believe he would be telling us not to make such a fuss about him, to just go about our business and take a lesson from his death:

Life is sweet. Life is short. Live it fully. Tell the people you love that you love them, and show them with your actions. And take a moment every day to ask yourself: "What if this was my last day?"

Please join us in the Observer family in praying for David's family. Their loss is great.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on April 29, 2009 at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)

April 28, 2009

Delhomme's new deal cap-friendly

The Panthers saved about $2.5 million under their 2009 salary cap by signing quarterback Jake Delhomme to a contract extension last week that added five years to his existing deal.

Delhomme's was scheduled to count nearly $11.1 million against the '09 cap before the extension, but now counts $8.591 million.

His numbers are relatively cap-friendly for a starting quarterback in subsequent years -- $4.785 million in 2010, $5.745 million in 2011, $6.705 million in 2012, $7.665 million in 2013, and $8 million in 2014.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on April 28, 2009 at 05:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (55)

More free agents signed

The Panthers announced the signing of their undrafted free agents and two veteran free agents Tuesday. There were three undrafted players not reported online yesterday -- Idaho State cornerback Derrick Clark, Wyoming linebacker Mike Juergens, Kentucky tackle Garry Williams. The veteran free agents are former Vanderbilt center Justin Geisinger and former Arkansas wide receiver Marcus Monk.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on April 28, 2009 at 03:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

April 27, 2009

Cadogan fills void of LT backup for Gross

Cadogan200p When the NFL draft ended Sunday, the Panthers' depth chart was void of any legitimate backup to put behind left tackle Jordan Gross. So they addressed that needed quickly in the wild-and-wooly undrafted free agency market, signing Penn State's Gerald Cadogan (6-5, 309 pounds), who some analysts had projected to be a third or fourth round pick. He was ranked No. 82 in the Observer's Top 100.

Cadogan (at right, AP Photo) played left tackle for the Nittany Lions after replacing first-round pick Levi Brown as a sophomore. He was a first time All-Big Ten player last season.

Cadogan's agent, Scott Smith, said he received "tons" of phone calls after the draft from teams wanting to sign Cadogan, but that the Panthers offered the best opportunity -- and of course backed that up with competitive signing bonus.

"You're getting a guy you didn't have to use a draft pick on, but someone who is a very talented blocker who should be in the league a long time," said Smith.

Smith said Panthers officials told him Cadogan would start out as Gross' backup.

Cadogan's 40-yard dash time of 5.12 seconds was tied for fourth best among offensive linemen at the NFL combine in February.

According to various internet reports, here are other undrafted free agents the Panthers have signed:

-- Louisville QB Hunter Cantwell -- Filled in for last season after Brian Brohm (Packers' second-round pick) left for the pros. Passed for 2,493 yards, with 16 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions. He becomes the No. 4 QB behind Jake Delhomme, Josh McCown and Matt Moore.

-- Penn State SS Anthony Scirrotto -- A team captain for the Nittany Lions who had 66 tackles and a fumble recovery.

-- Rutgers TE Kevin Brock -- Started six of 13 games last season, catching 26 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns.

-- LSU DT Marlon Favorite -- Was a part-time starter last season (7 of 13 games) and has not shown much as an inside pass rusher, but is much better against the run.

-- West Virginia LB Morrty Ivy -- Starter the past two seasons, playing WLB in '07 and SLB in '08. Had 90 tackles, six pass breakups and three interceptions last year.

-- Illinois LB Brit Miller -- Hard-nosed player had 132 tackles from the middle linebacker position. Led the Big Ten in tackling. Was a team captain.

-- Pittsburgh C-G C.J. Davis -- Started the first seven games at left guard last season, then filled in at center when the regular starter was injured.

-- California LS Nick Sundberg -- A former walk-on who spent four years working exclusively as Cal's snapper. The Panthers have a need at the position with veteran free agent Jason Kyle still unsigned.

-- Central Florida OT Patrick Brown

-- Morgan State DT Lonnie Harvey

-- Purdue LB Anthony Heygood

-- Michigan State DT Justin Kershaw

-- Wesley College KR/WR Larry Beavers 

-- Louisiana-Lafayette WR Jaron Chery

-- Connecticut center Keith Gray

-- Bishop College RB Jamall Lee

(-- by Charles Chandler)

Posted by Observer Sports on April 27, 2009 at 06:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (57)

UNC's Tate admits to positive test

Brandon Tate, a former North Carolina receiver/returner drafted this weekend by the New England Patriots, admitted to reporters Sunday that he tested positive for marijuana at February's NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

"I know I made a mistake and all that is behind me," said Tate, taken in the third round by the Patriots. "I'm just moving forward and getting ready to play for the Patriots."

Tate said he had worried that the positive test -- which had been reported last week by Foxsports.com -- would hurt his draft status.

"I knew it probably would (impact me)," Tate told the Boston Herald. "But I was still waiting on that call because I knew somebody would give me that chance."

Tate, who missed much of last season with a severe knee injury, also said he didn't know if he'd be ready for the Patriots' mini-camp. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on April 27, 2009 at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

April 26, 2009

Panthers' post-draft press conference

    Panthers general manager Marty Hurney and coach John Fox met with reporters, including the Observer's Charles Chandler and David Scott, on Sunday after making the team's selections in the NFL Draft. Here is a transcript of highlights from the press conference. Some questions and answers were edited for clarity and brevity: 

   Q: Could you break down the players you drafted today?

   Hurney: In the third round, (DT) Corvey Irvin, we think has quickness. He's disruptive inside. We think he gets good penetration. We think he's a very good player. (RB) Mike Goodson is an explosive player -- makes big plays, has good hands, can be a receiver out of the backfield. He can move around in spots. (FB Tony) Fiametta is just a very good fullback. He's athletic. He blocks well. We thought he was a very good fit for us. Duke Robinson is a guy who is extremely talented. We  just thought in the fifth round, he was an extremely good value there. He fits what we want to do on the offensive line. He's a powerful blocker and we thought he was a good get there in the fifth round. Captain Munnerylyn,... we had higher on the board (than Round 7). He's very quick. He's a very competitive  player. We feel like he was an excellent pick in the seventh round.

   Q: Do you see Goodson and Munnerlyn as possible kick returners?

   Hurney: We'll see. There are possibilities. We'll just see how that plays out.

   Q: John, where do you think you helped yourself the most?

   Fox: It's hard to say until we get them here. I'll know a lot more Friday (when minicamp starts) and through the weekend. I'm anxious to see them play. I've seen them play on tape. We'll see how they fit into our system. I feel like (Hurney and the scouting staff) have done a good job over the last few years and I don't think it'll be any different this time.

   Q: John, could you talk about getting some help for your defense, snce your first three picks in this draft were defensive players?

   Fox: Well, last year, we went primarily offense. I think it was about time we injected some guys in there on defense and we'll see where that lies.

   Q: John, could you talk about Everette Brown, since you're obviously fond of pass rushers?

   Fox: He's young. I think he's still growing as a football player. He's shown the ability to have a knack to pass rush. There's a skillset. It's not just size or speed; it's a combination. He exhibited that very well this past year and we're looking forward to working with him.

   Q: How many of these guys are immediate impact players?

   Fox: I don't think we would have drafted them if we didn't expect them to help us. As far as what level of that it is, that's why we practice.

   Hurney: We hope every one of them can come in and contribute in some way, but until you get going, you don't really know.

   Q: Was Irvin an especially good fit for you since he wasn't rated as high as the third round in many pre-draft projections?

   Hurney: I think, especially this year, there were a lot of people who had a lot of different views. I think you could see (that) by the way the draft went. Pre-draft ratings, we had him on our board basically where we took him. He's a good fit. He's a good football player. He was basically in that area from Day 1 for us, and when I talk about Day 1, I go back to September and October, so we're very happy to get him.

   Q: Goodson's career was interesting. His stats went down every year and he went through a coaching change, but he also reportedly had  some friction this past season with coach Mike Sherman. Could you talk about that?

   Hurney: We talked to people there (at Texas A&M). We did our research on him. Obviously, we felt good about him because we took him. We think he has a very good approach to it. We think he's a hard worker and we think it matters to him. Again, he has the ability to make big plays.

   Q: Were there any areas you were hoping to address that you weren't able to address?

   Fox: We'd like to have about 10 more picks. Unfortunately, we don't have them. I thought from what we had and getting extra picks, I thought Marty and his bunch did a good job.

   Q: You came into the draft needing offensive line depth and only drafted Duke Robinson. Do you feel like you'll need to sign some veteran free agents?

   Hurney: We feel good that we've got our starting five back for the first time here in a long time. We feel good about Mackenzy (Bernadeau) and (Geoff) Schwartz (draft picks last season) and then we added Duke Robinson. You know, you're always looking. If the right opportunity comes up, you're always looking to get better, but I think we feel like we made a good addition today and we felt good about who we had coming into today.

   Q: Who could you put at left tackle right now to spell Jordan Gross?

   Hurney: Well, that's something (we'll) go into. There will be options there. But Travelle (Wharton) has played left tackle. We'll have some options  there. Again, we lost some depth on the offensive line. We knew that was a priority coming in. Hopefully, we helped ourselves some and we also had some young guys coming back from last year.

   Q: Do the defensive players you drafted point particularly to what new defensive coordinator Ron Meeks wants to do?

   Fox: I don't think we've changed much philosophically. You've still got to tackle and run to the ball, all out of the same concepts. From a real physical element, I don't think there's much change from what it's been here in the past.

   Q: Goodson can play as a slot receiver. Do you see him possibly at the position of wide receiver?

   Hurney: That's what John and (offensive coordinator) Jeff Davidson and our coaches will figure out as far as having him around, but he does have some flexibility to move and do some different things. He does bring a different dimension and he does have big-play ability.

   Q:  You have traditionally kept one pure fullback on the 53-man regular-season roster in Brad (Hoover). Is there room for Brad and Fiammetta on the active roster at the same time?

   Fox: That's why we practice so they compete and see, and hopefully (we'll) keep our best 53. Sometimes that varies. Last year we kept two kickers, which is a little unusual as far as the league is concerrned. We've gone into the season with two quarterbacks. That's why we practice and that's why we compete. They're all competing for one of those spots.

   Hurney: Obviously, certainly, there is room for that.

   Q: Meeks had undersized defensive ends when he was the defensive coordinator in Indianapolis. Since Brown is also undersized, is that a preference for Meeks?

   Fox: No. We just felt like (Brown) was a guy we liked a lot.  ... Whether he's 6-4 or 6-1, as long as a guy can play and be productive, it doesn't matter. We haven't changed that philosophy. We liked him as a football player.

   Q: Duke Robinson was projected to go much higher than he did. Where did you have him rated?

   Hurney: (With) projections, you can look at 10 and they're all different. We can get Ds and Fs tomorrow in all the (post-draft) grades, but it just matters whether guys come in and help you win.  I do think there were a lot of people who had him rated higher, but we just thought in the fifth round, that was a very good value for him.

   Q: John, do you expect Julius Peppers to be at minicamp Friday?

   Fox: Again, I have not communicated with him.  I'm sure Marty addressed that yesterday, but we'll keep you posted.

   Q: What about guys like Jon Beason and guys who've been hurt? Will they be ready to participate in minicamp?

   Fox: We'll meet with the medical people later this week and find who's going to be in and who's going to be out. But it'll be just medical. If they don't make it, they're just not ready to go. But I don't see it being long-term. It could be for the camp, but I don't really know the exact player-by-player grade on that yet.

   Q: Marty, have you had any communication with Carl Carey (Peppers' agent) since yesterday's press  conference regarding whether Peppers will attend the minicamp?

   Hurney: Not since I talked to you last night,  no.

   Fox: Have you been busy, Marty? (Fox laughs).

   -- Charles Chandler



Posted by Observer Sports on April 26, 2009 at 07:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

Panthers take Gamecocks' Munnerlyn

Captain2 The Panthers wrapped up their draft by taking South Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn in the seventh round (216th overall).

Carolina had traded their sixth rounder for this pick with the Oakland Raiders. Munnerlyn also returned punts and kickoffs for the Gamecocks.

-- David Scott 

Posted by Observer Sports on April 26, 2009 at 05:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (52)

Updated: Panthers trade with Raiders

The Panthers have traded their sixth-round pick (202nd overall) to Oakland for the Raiders' seventh-rounder (216th overall) and next year's sixth rounder. -- David Scott 

Posted by Observer Sports on April 26, 2009 at 05:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

In the fifth round: It's Smokey's great-nephew

Robinson3 Cool fact about Duke Robinson, the Panthers' fifth-round draft pick, an offensive guard from Oklahoma: He's the great-nephew of Motown great Smokey Robinson. Duke Robinson is the first offensive lineman taken by the Panthers in the draft.

Sounds funny, Carolina gets Duke. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on April 26, 2009 at 03:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (31)

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