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September 10, 2009

Fox says #Panthers' options for punt returner Sunday include Steve Smith

Panthers coach John Fox wouldn't say Thursday who'll return punts in Sunday's season opener against Philadelphia, but said the candidates include two veterans who filled he role in the  past but didn't get work there in the preseason -- wide receiver Steve Smith and cornerback Chris Gamble.

The punt returner spot has been a troublesome position for the Panthers in the preseason. Ryne Robinson, who filled the role in 2007, didn't look the same this summer after suffering a knee injury in the '08 training camp and was released.

Rookie cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and wide receiver Kenny Moore got looks in the preseason, but both had issues with either dropping punts or fumbling.

The Panthers wanted to sign Mark Jones, their 2008 kickoff and punt returner, earlier this week after he was released by Tennessee, but he failed a physical due to an injured hamstring.

Munnerlyn said after Wednesday's practice that he expected to be the punt returner, but Fox was non-committal.

Smith almost certainly is the best candidate on the roster, but using him in that role could be risky because of his value as one of the best wide receivers in the league.

Smith sounded willing but not overly enthused about the possibility Thursday.

"It's my job to make plays, so whatever opportunities I get with the ball, my objective is to make plays," he said.

Smith said he, like all players, prefers to avoid being in a situation that could enhance the chance of an injury.

"You've got a chance (of) getting hurt just stepping on the field," he said. "You hope you're not put in a position whether it's catching punts or running the ball or catching the ball or drop-back passing where you're put in a vulnerable position where you could be injured. You try to minimize thaat when you're on the field as much as possible."

Smith returned 133 punts, including four for touchdowns, in his first three seasons (2001-03), but has returned punts only three times for 17 yards in the past two years.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on September 10, 2009 at 02:33 PM | Permalink


What about Goodson? Hell, put both Smith and Goodson back and things will open up.

Another example of Fox underestimating and/or underutilizing his weapons.

Posted by: BadGenius | Sep 10, 2009 3:15:35 PM

Is Michael Bates available? Sure do miss that weapon.

Posted by: Chris | Sep 10, 2009 3:21:53 PM

Plus the punt return for a TD against the Seahawks in the 2005 playoffs.

Posted by: Dan | Sep 10, 2009 3:25:38 PM

Steve Smith won't be returning punts. Fox is blowing smoke, as usual.

Posted by: D Reed | Sep 10, 2009 3:27:30 PM

If Steve Smith returns punts, every fan in the stadium can turn around, bend over, drop your drawers and I'll kiss each and every #$$ there. I'm just saying.

Posted by: charlesbright | Sep 10, 2009 3:28:58 PM

I would have liked to see the Panthers give Rodney Landers a try. At about 6 foot 220lbs he is big, fast as a hell, smart, and he can throw a football like any QB on our roster. He could return punts, play defensiveback, play a wild cat or a flat out running back. He is as sure handed as they come... Hopping off his d*** now. I wouldn't mind seeing smitty take one to the house like he did in the Championship game vs the Seahawks.

Posted by: VIP (Virginia Is for Panthers) | Sep 10, 2009 3:30:43 PM

Maybe they could put Peppers back there so he can test his "fullest potential", I mean he'll be $1 million richer by monday so he should be feeling pretty good hahaha. I keed I keed, that's what I do. Seriously tho, I say give the youngsters a chance, hopefully they got over their coughs in the preseason and are feeling better.

Go Panthers woooooooo!!!!! I'm not a Peppers hater so please don't call me out guys lol

Posted by: Mr. Purr | Sep 10, 2009 3:39:09 PM

What about Ussain Bolt? Let's hire him...

Posted by: Dude | Sep 10, 2009 3:53:33 PM

@ Dude... Come on.

@ Mr. Purr, I'm not mad at the Joke it made me laugh a little but I wouldn't trust the "youngsters" especially when the team is going every route to not put them in there.

@ VIP, looked him up and he looks good on paper but there must be a reason he didn't get a roster spot on a team. Seen the Rams, Giants and Buccaneers were interested.

@ Charlesbright... WOOOW, I hope your face will be the only thing stinking in BOA on sunday. Well that and the Eagles.

@ D Reed, I stand by what I told VIP.

@ Dan, yup yup I would like to see that happen.

@ Chris, he's as available as Vinny Testaverde.

@ BadGenius, I don't kno how smart it is but I like the thought of that.

Posted by: Really??? | Sep 10, 2009 4:08:05 PM

Steve Smith Should get as many touches as possible. It's risky but I think he would be dynamite again. Kickoffs are not as risky as punt reuturns so try him there if no one else can to spark the team!!!

Posted by: panfan1 | Sep 10, 2009 4:10:07 PM

I absolutely do not for the life of me understand the myth of returning kicks being so dangerous. the one time smith had a serious injury it was catching passes not returning kicks. the thing about smith is that he's 30 not 24 and he's not gonna be as fresh returning a 4th quarter punt as a specialist would and i'd rather have smith fresh for the drive. same applies with gamble or marshall. but we should never hesitate to put smith back there to fair catch in critical situations.

Posted by: charlottean | Sep 10, 2009 4:10:30 PM

Bad idea. The last time Steve Smith returned kicks, he looked terrible. It was like he just wanted to catch the ball and go down before getting killed. In a sense, I don't blame him. But why risk putting him out there when he's not likely going to do much. As for Gamble, please - just say NO. He'll probably pass it directly to the other team, in his usual state of confusion. Don't know what the answer is, but maybe with more practice, the youngsters can settle down and do a good job.

Posted by: Wayne D | Sep 10, 2009 4:23:03 PM

Why would the Panthers put their best player out there from two of the thinner positions on the team? They won't. No chance either of them retuns punts.

Posted by: Skinney | Sep 10, 2009 4:35:58 PM

Tough call! With so many of the punt returners in the preseason showing that they had been stricken with a bad case of fumbleitis, I guess the best we can do is pray the disease is under control. I can't see risking Steve Smith in that situation. Let's just hope Mark Jones' injury heals quickly.

Posted by: Panthergirl | Sep 10, 2009 4:38:56 PM

put jake delhome back to field punts so he can get rock..

Posted by: tim | Sep 10, 2009 5:00:46 PM

Two words: Jeff Otah.

Posted by: ChunkyLover519 | Sep 10, 2009 5:05:57 PM

Smitty has good hands; I'm ok with it provided he fair catches everything!

We don't need punt returns, we just need to hold onto the ball; heck, use Moose. Just fair catch it, but make sure of the catch.

Posted by: Michael | Sep 10, 2009 7:18:17 PM

Well it's quite obvious that nobody posting opinions has read what Smithy has to say about returning punts this Sunday. I know, I know. We're all a little excited that the season is about to start, but let's not allow excitement to get in the way of not being stupid. Boy, you talk about gamblers wanting to double down. Unt uh.

Posted by: charlesbright | Sep 10, 2009 7:28:18 PM

Delhomme is not good enough to NOT have Steve on the field. Having him return might be a just a little risky.

Posted by: smitty | Sep 10, 2009 8:14:08 PM

maybe Larry Anderson would come out of retirement.

Posted by: Terry Bradshaw | Sep 10, 2009 9:05:41 PM

I just hope Ron Meeks and our defense can show up with the fire, drive and violence that the Steelers and Titans are showing us.
Every man on this defensive squad needs to dig deep and play with some determination.
McNabb should get rattled, sacked and intercepted multible times.

Posted by: OBX | Sep 10, 2009 10:44:05 PM

Really, smitty? Please, remind me what he did the last two games Smith was out of the lineup.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Sep 11, 2009 12:44:46 AM

The Panthers web site today (9/11) lists Moore first as PR, with Munnerlyn #2.

Posted by: GBooth | Sep 11, 2009 6:51:03 AM

This team struggles every year to find a recent punt returner!!! IS it our special teams game planning or just having no good runners? I swear, we never can return punts worth a s***

Posted by: Julis Peppers | Sep 11, 2009 9:34:06 AM

Really Procton?? Remind me what he did in the Raiders & Cardinals games when Smith was in the lineup.

Posted by: D.W.G. | Sep 11, 2009 10:26:09 AM

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