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December 31, 2009

Panthers can help Saints make history

The New Orleans Saints, who started the season 13-0 but are now losers of two straight, might be on the verge of an odd kind of first in the NFL, and their foes on Sunday -- the Carolina Panthers -- would be happy to help them with that.

According to the league, no team has ever entered the playoffs as No. 1 seed on a three-game losing streak (since the league started seeding teams in the playoffs in 1975). That's what the Saints are looking at: After opening the season with 13 consecutive victories, the Saints have lost two in a row (to Dallas and Tampa Bay). But they clinched home-field throughout the NFC playoffs on Monday night when the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Chicago Bears.

Saints coach Sean Payton said earlier this week that his starters would open the game, but he didn't say how long they would play. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on December 31, 2009 at 05:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

FB Hoover wins media award honoring Berry

The Pro Football Writers of America announced today the selection of Carolina fullback Brad Hoover as the first winner of the Tom Berry Good Guy Award.

Berry was a long-time columnist and writer for the High Point Enterprise who covered the Panthers regularly and passed away in September.

The award was voted upon by reporters who cover the Panthers' regularly, who were asked to consider players who consistently cooperated with their efforts.

Hoover will be presented with the award Sunday, when the Panthers finish their season at home against the New Orleans Saints.

The award is fitting on several levels, including Hoover's long-time relationship with Berry. Hoover grew up in Thomasville, part of the Enterprise's coverage area. Berry covered Hoover and wrote about him on the high school, college and pro levels.

"Brad Hoover is the absolute perfect selection for this award," said ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas, the NFC South representative for the PFWA. "First off, Brad symbolizes everything Tom Berry stood for. He's always been courteous and polite with the media and a true gentlemen. Plus, Brad and Tom had a special connection that makes this selection even more meaninful on many levels."

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on December 31, 2009 at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Williams, Stewart still not at practice

Panthers running backs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton all missed practice again today, though Stewart appears to be the most likely of the three to play Sunday vs. New Orleans.

Williams and Sutton are nursing ankle injuries. Both missed last week's game against the New York Giants.

Stewart usually practices on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday, and may have been given an extra day's rest because of the heavy rushing load he got against the Giants (26 carries for 206 yards). However, coach John Fox wouldn't confirm that.

Cornerback Richard Marshall (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis.

Wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad (ankle) and tackle Geoff Schwartz (groin) practiced fully after sitting out Wednesday's drills. Quarterback Matt Moore (rib) was back to full participation after being limited on Wednesday.

Receiver Steve Smith appeared on the injury report with his broken arm, but he's out for the season. There's still a chance the Panthers may place him on injured reserve and add another player to the active roster, possibly practice squad receiver Dexter Jackson.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on December 31, 2009 at 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Panthers could become first team to have two 1,100-yard rushers in same season

The Carolina Panthers already are the sixth team in NFL history with two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season, and they have a chance to become the first with a pair of 1,100-yard rushers.

Pro Bowler DeAngelo Williams (1,117 yards) already is over 1,100 and Jonathan Stewart (1,008) needs 92 yards Sunday against New Orleans to join him there.

Williams has missed the past seven quarters with an ankle injury and his status to play against the Saints is uncertain. He didn't practice Wednesday.

If Williams plays, he'll neeed just 24 yards to overtake Atlanta's Warrick Dunn in 2006 (1,140) for the most rushing yards by a player on a team with two 1,000-yard rushers.

Here's the list of the six teams who've had two players go over 1K:

1972 -- Miami, Larry Csonka (1,117) and Mercury Morris (1,000)

1976 -- Pittsburgh, Franco Harris (1,128) and Rocky Bleier (1,036)

1985 -- Cleveland, Kevin Mack (1,104) and Earnest Byner (1,002)

2006 -- Atlanta, Warrick Dunn (1,140) and Michael Vick (1,039)

2008 -- N.Y. Giants, Brandon Jacobs (1,089) and Derrick Ward (1,025)

*- 2009 -- Carolina, DeAngelo Williams (1,117) and Jonathan Stewart (1,008)

* -- Through 15 games. One game remaining Sunday vs. New Orleans.

Posted by Observer Sports on December 31, 2009 at 11:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

Crunching injury numbers

Injuries have played a key role for the Panthers this season. Here are the numbers:

-- Fourteen starters have missed at least one game (that'll go to 15 Sunday when Steve Smith misses the Saints game). That includes the defensive-tackle spot of Maake Kemoeatu, who went out in the preseason. Replacements Louis Leonard and Nick Hayden have been hurt playing there, too.

-- Starters have missed a total of 55 games.

-- Thirteen players are either on injured reserve or are out for the season (Steve Smith), including eight starters (defensive back Nate Salley was later released). That includes two – linebacker Landon Johnson and Leonard, who were starting in place of players who were already on injured reserve.

-- Including Kemoeatu, the Panthers have had four guys listed as starters at that one defensive tackle position at various times this season (also Hayden, Leonard and Hollis Thomas) because of injury. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on December 31, 2009 at 11:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday's Carolina Panthers links

Thursday's Panthers links:

Muhammad says he wants to play in 2010 / Charlotte Observer

Fox won't be fired, but will he be back? / Charlotte Observer

Jake, Smith among decade's most fascinating / Charlotte Observer

Fox sidesteps questions about future / Rock Hill Herald

Saints want to get well, play well / New Orleans Times Picayune

Fujita named Saints' man of year / New Orleans Times Picayune

Pro Bowl snub motivates Saints DE Smith / NO Times Picayune

Muhammad not ready to call it quits / Gaston Gazette

Players react to Fox's return / Gaston Gazette

Posted by Observer Sports on December 31, 2009 at 07:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 30, 2009

Davis, Marshall, King could lose unrestricted free agency status

   If there is no collective bargaining agreement before March, five Panthers players will be among the 212 league-wide who will lose their status as unrestricted free agents.

   Under the current CBA, the failure to reach a new agreement will result in 2010 being an uncapped year, plus the required number of seasons necessary for unrestricted free agency would increase from four to six.

   Thus, players with four and five years experience who normally would be unrestricted free agents instead would be restricted free agents.

  Four Carolina starters would be affected – outside linebackers Thomas Davis and James Anderson, tight end Jeff King and cornerback Richard Marshall. Recently-signed reserve tackle Rob Pettiti also would be affected.

Anderson moved into the starting lineup after season-ending injuries to Davis and Landon Johnson.

   As restricted free agents, the Panthers could make each player a one-year tender offer and have the right to match any offer they get from another team. The tender offers would be based on the amount of draft-pick compensation Carolina would want if they allowed the players to sign with another team.

   There generally is much less player movement around the NFL for restricted free agents compared to unrestrcted free agents.

 -- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on December 30, 2009 at 05:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Players happy about Fox news

Panthers players were happy about an Observer report earlier this week that coach John Fox won't be fired.

"I think he's a good coach," said center Ryan Kalil. "Having changes would be a setback for us. The last few games, we've playing well. Fans will think what they want to think on the outside."

Kalil said he has heard some Panthers fans talking about replacing Fox with former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher.

"He's an awesome coach," Kalil said. "But what is he going to want to do that's different from Fox? He'll want to play good defense and run the football. What exactly are we talking about here?"

Said defensive tackle Damione Lewis: "When a new coach comes in, a whole bunch of everything changes. (Fox) has done a great job. Knowing what we've played through, he's kept guys up all season. That's great coaching."

Neither Lewis nor Kalil said they thought the Panthers not extending Fox's contract past next season would have an effect on the team.

"I don't think guys think about that stuff," said Kalil. "I have my own opinion about things, but contract stuff, I have no idea. I'm still trying to figure out how mine works."

"We have no control over what goes on top of us," said Lewis. "Maybe they (extend his contract) midseason next year, who knows? There are a lot of things going on, especially in a lockout year. I know one thing, he won't have trouble finding a job. He's one of the reasons I came here." -- David Scott




Posted by Observer Sports on December 30, 2009 at 04:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)

Fox mum on his future

Panthers coach John Fox didn't have much to say about his future after Wednesday's practice.

Following an Observer report earlier this week quoting sources saying the team wouldn't fire Fox, he was asked to comment.

"I've got a year on my contract. I don't get into that right now," Fox said. "My focus is to get through the season. I have an agent (who) deals with that."

Asked if it would be difficult to coach a season when he's in the final year of his contract, Fox said: "I think I just answered that."

* Running backs DeAngelo Williams (ankle), Jonathan Stewart (Achilles) and Tyrerll Sutton (ankle) were among the players who didn't participate in practice. It's customary for Stewart to rest on Wednesdays.

Also sitting out: right tackle Geoff Schwartz (groiin(, cornerback Richard Marshall (ankle), ajd wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad (ankle).

Quarterback Matt Moore (rib) practiced on a limited basis.

* The Panthers still haven't placed receiver Steve Smith on injured reserve and added another player to the active roster. Fox said there wouldn't necessarily be a move.

* Linebacker Jon Beason was named NFC defensive player of the week.

<span class="icon icon-bullet"></span>Beason, center Ryan Kalil and Smith were named second alternates to the Pro Bowl.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on December 30, 2009 at 02:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (56)

Wednesday's Panthers links

Wednesday's Carolina Panthers links:

Peppers, Williams named to Pro Bowl; Beason snubbed / Charlotte Observer

Scott Says: Is no Beason no fair? / Charlotte Observer

Panthers surprise Second Harvest, deliver big gift / Charlotte Observer

Carson: Loss to Panthers 'embarrassing' / Charlotte Observer

Don't get sucked into Moore hysteria / Rock Hill Herald

Peppers, Williams make Pro Bowl / Rock Hill Herald

Five Saints named to Pro Bowl / New Orleans Times Picayune

Saints DE McCray charged with DUI / New Orleans Times Picayune

Fox shouldn't have to endure lame-duck season / Gaston Gazette

Peppers, Williams in Pro Bowl; Beason left out / Gaston Gazette

Posted by Observer Sports on December 30, 2009 at 07:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)