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May 29, 2009

Friday's summer-school notes

The first week of "summer school" ended Friday. A few notes:

-- Receiver Muhsin Muhammad didn't participate because of a family commitment. That gave No. 3 receiver Dwayne Jarrett more time with the first team and he made some nice catches. Muhammad will be back on Monday to the OTAs (organized team activities) which, on paper at least, are optional.

"(Muhammad) had something on his schedule and I'm usually kind of flexible this time of year," said coach John Fox. "He's been a great participant in the past and he had something with his family so I excused him."

-- Rookies Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Goodson spent some time returning kickoffs. Ryne Robinson, who returned punts and kicks in 2007 but who missed last season with a knee injury, will probably have the inside track on both jobs heading into training camp in August.

-- Summer school has a different feel to it than mini-camp, which took place the week after April's NFL draft.

"Mini-camp is the most condensed work of the season for us," said Fox. "We have two-a-days (practices) and not much rest time between. It's a quick introduction to everything we do. We work on timing and we have a pretty large number of new guys.

"The OTAs are just once a day and we have more time to recover and more time to watch tape. They can continue with their weight program. But it's all important, getting guys ready for training camp."

-- Summer school will last four weeks this year instead of the usual three. It will conclude the week of June 15. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on May 29, 2009 at 02:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

May 28, 2009

Delhomme on Jarrett; Hurney on OL depth

   Quarterback Jake Delhomme is optimistic that third-year wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett is ready for the kind of breakout season Carolina Panthers fans have been awaiting since the team picked him in the second round of the 2007 draft.

   “We’re waiting on Dwayne,” Delhomme said after summer school practice Thursday. “He can help us. He can really and truly help us. I expect him to help us.”

   Jarrett, a former Southern California All-American, had a disappointing rookie season, appearing in seven games and catching six passes for 73 yards. Last year, he had 10 receptions for 119 yards in nine games, but displayed more consistency.

   Delhomme hopes Jarrett will have a big third season, as did running back DeAngelo Williams last year.

   “This game is a learning process,” said Delhomme, adding that Jarrett showed “flashes” of excellence at times last season.

   “I have high hopes. If I didn’t have high hopes for him I wouldn’t be kind of hard on him.”


   If there are glaring weaknesses – at least for now – on the Carolina Panthers’ roster, it’s the total lack of experience among the backup offensive linemen and the long snappers.

   The Panthers lost all three of their experienced line backups during the offseason and so far haven’t re-signed veteran snapper Jason Kyle, an unrestricted free agent.

   However, general manager Marty Hurney sounds comfortable with the strategy the team’s taking, noting that it’s important to develop young depth via the draft.

   “We feel very good about (guard-center) Mackenzy Bernadeau and (tackle) Geoff Schwarrtz as far as (them) coming into their second year,” said Hurney. “We took them last year in the seventh round. They’ve had a year to kind of learn. We’ll see how they do. Then we used another draft pick (this year) on (guard) Duke (Robinson).  And we really were aggressive and signed some rookie free agents after the draft.

   “You’re evaluating every day and (seeing) how things go. Competition will kind of answer those questions. But I think we feel like we’ve got some good competition there for those backup spots.”

   The Panthers have three newcomers competing to potentially take over the snapping role – J.J. Jansen, Nick Sundberg and Patrick MacDonald. If


goes into the season with one of them snapping, they’re taking more of a chance on botched punts, field goals and extra points than with they stayed with the ever-reliable Kyle.

   “There’s always risk in everything,” said Hurney. “That’s something we just have to evaluate as we go. We’ve got three good candidates, and we’ll keep evaluating and go from there.”


   The defense clearly outshone the offense in Thursday’s practice. Strong safety Chris Harris and cornerback Richard Marshall were among several defenders with interceptions.

   Harris said it was a much better day for the defense than Wednesday’s opening practice of summer school.

   “We just had an oil change yesterday,” Harris joked. “On the second day, it looked like a totally different squad out there. Guys were starting to get comfortable and get back in the groove of things.”

   Harris said he’s encouraged by what he’s seen so far of defensive changes coming under new defensive coordinator Ron Meeks. Harris acknowledged that the Panthers probably will have more of an emphasis than in the past on the Cover 2 defensive scheme Meeks used extensively in recent years as coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts’ defense.

   Harris said he also expects the Panthers to do a better job off creating turnovers. They ranked in the middle of the league last season – tied for 15th – with 25 takeaways.

   “You should see a lot more turnovers this season,” said Harris.

   “We’re emphasizing running to the football … When you’re running to the football, good things happen.”


-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on May 28, 2009 at 03:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

Richardson makes practice appearance

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson made a surprise appearance at the team's summer school practice Thursday morning. It was the first time in 10 months that Richardson has attended a practice and was his most public appearance since undergoing a heart transplant on February 1.

"It was great," said coach John Fox. "He looked great. He's getting stronger by the day. Everything's going well with the procedure he had. ... We're happy to see him."

The Panthers had an especially enthusiastic practice, which Fox attributed to the boost players got by Richardson's presence.

"We tease each other, but coaches were coaching harder and players were playing harder," said Fox. "There's no doubt that affects it."

Richardson arrived at the practice field shortly after 10 a.m. with close friend and former Bank of America chief Hugh McColl, who was driving Richardson's silver BMW SUV. They then boarded a golf cart, with Richardson driving, and watched practice for about 45 minutes.

Richardson smiled and greeted reporters before departing, thanking them for the notes of well wishes they'd sent him in recent months.

He smiled and looked well, albeit lighter than he was before his heart condition worsened last year.

Richardson hadn't attended a Panthers' practice since training camp in Spartanburg last July.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on May 28, 2009 at 12:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

May 16, 2009

Baker's unique football camp

Panthers punter Jason Baker has a unique kind of summer football camp. Campers aren't charged money to come to the camp in Baker's hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind. Instead, they perform community service, then attend the camp. Read about it in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 16, 2009 at 04:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

May 11, 2009

SI ranks Panthers 18th

Sports Illustrated's Peter King rates the NFL teams 1-32 in his off-season power rankings and the Panthers aren't anywhere near the top. King has the Panthers ranked 18th -- saying he's worried about quarterback Jake Delhomme's poor playoff performance (5 INTs) against the Cardinals, the uncertainty of the Julius Peppers situation and how poorly the defense played down the stretch.

He could have mentioned the Panthers' schedule -- second toughest in the league -- but he didn't.

King has the Patriots ranked No. 1; the Browns No. 32. He also has the Panther ranked behind the Falcons in the NFC South, but ahead of New Orleans and Tampa Bay. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on May 11, 2009 at 12:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (110)

May 06, 2009

Rucker to provide preseason color

A familiar face to the Panthers will handle color commentary for the team's final three preseason exhibitions, according to the Panthers website. Former defensive end Mike Rucker will be joined in the television booth by Mike Morgan, who will handle play-by-play duties. Morgan has been a broadcaster for South Carolina basketball and baseball games.

Morgan and Rucker replace Gary Williams and former Panthers quarterback Steve Beuerlein in broadcasting the preseason games. 

The Panthers' first exhibition -- Aug. 17 at the New York Giants -- will be on ESPN. The Panthers' other three games -- Aug. 22 at Miami, Aug. 29 vs. Baltimore and Sept. 3 vs. Pittsburgh -- will be on WCCB, channel 18 in the Charlotte market. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on May 6, 2009 at 10:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

May 02, 2009

Saturday Morning Minicamp Notes


Cornerback Chris Gamble sat out the practice with a hamstring tweak. Defensive end Charles Johnson was excused to attend a funeral. Rookie running back Mike Goodson, a fourth round pick, returned to practice after having a mild illness Friday afternoon. Goodson had a nifty touchdown run in goal-line drills, taking a pitch to the right and sprinting past defenders into the end zone. Veterans not participating in the minicamp because they're recovering from offseason shoulder surgery: linebacker Jon Beason, safety Chris Harris, and linebacker Na'il Diggs. Defensive tackle Damione Lewis is participating on a limited basis.

-- Charles Chandler 

Posted by Observer Sports on May 2, 2009 at 12:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

May 01, 2009

Fox expects Peppers at training camp

Franchised defensive end Julius Peppers wasn't at Panthers mini-camp, which began today on the team's practice fields.

That wasn't a surprise, given the fact that Peppers hasn't signed his contract tender yet and isn't required to be here.

But coach John Fox didn't seem too troubled by Peppers' absence and said he anticipates him being at training camp in July.

"I don't think this will keep him from training camp," Fox said. "That's kind of what I expect; that's when our season starts."

And did Fox think Peppers was missing anything important, with a new defensive coordinator (Ron Meeks) in place as the team starts offseason drills?

"No," Fox said.

-- Several players didn't take part in drills Friday, although they were there. Four of them had offseason shoulder surgery -- safety Chris Harris, linebackers Jon Beason and Na'il Diggs and defensive tackle Damione Lewis. Running backs DeAngelo Williams (hamstring) and Jonathan Stewart (ankle) also sat out, as did tight end Dante Rosario, who will have lower back surgery on Monday. Fox said he expected Rosario to be ready for training camp.

-- Rookie running back Mike Goodson left early with an illness.

-- Long snapper Jason Kyle, a free agent, still hasn't signed. There were three players out there auditioning for the job -- Nick Sundberg (an undrafted rookie from California), J.J. Jansen (with Green Bay last season) and Keith Gray (an undrafted rookie from Connecticut). -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on May 1, 2009 at 12:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (45)