« February 2010 | Main | April 2010 »

March 31, 2010

Panthers preseason schedule announced

    The new-look Panthers will open the preseason on national television, as they go to Baltimore for an Aug. 12 game on ESPN. Dates and times for the rest of the games are subject to change, but they will host the New York Jets and Tennessee the following two weeks, and close the preseason with a trip to Pittsburgh.     The Panthers will host the Ravens in the regular season, and will go to Pittsburgh in the regular season as well.

— Darin Gantt

Posted by Observer Sports on March 31, 2010 at 03:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

March 29, 2010

Morrison: Price hikes not taken lightly

    Panthers team president Danny Morrison said he's sensitive toward fan complaints about ticket price hikes, though he defended the team's decision Monday as part of an extensive interview.

    We'll have more of the football-related portions in tomorrow's paper, but there was a lot to go through during the 45-minute session — which took place precisely six months from his first day on the job with the team.

    When asked about the Panthers ticket-price increase (their eighth in 11 years), he pointed out that the average cost is still in the bottom half of the league, while the other two teams with privately operated stadiums (New England and Washington) are in the top five. He said the Panthers spend approximately $20 million per year to run the stadium, costs which other clubs don’t have.

    He mentioned the fact the Panthers have spent $30 million total making improvements to the stadium (which opened in 1996) with another $1 million worth of renovations and additions this year, mostly for upgrades to the concession stands and televisions throughout the building.

    "Any time looking at what going to do from a ticket increase standpoint, you take that very seriously; especially since we've had such a good tradition here of great fan support," Morrison said. "In a competitive world, I guess everybody would like ticket prices or any other prices to never go up. But I think we've looked at our ticket pricing responsibly, we're in the lower half of the league, and we haven't gone up every year. Some would argue, why didn't you go up after a 12-4 season last year?"

    Morrison touched on a number of other topics Monday, including:

    — He’s been impressed with the schedule that Jerry Richardson maintains. The 73-year-old owner has kept a low profile since having heart transplant surgery nearly 14 months ago, but maintains a prestigious position within the league, leading the effort to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with the players union. 

    "He's been engaged from day one since I've been here," Morrison said. "All I know is that I've seen him engaged and he's not only attuned to all that's going on on the Panthers side, but he's so active in NFL matters as well. It just speaks to his trust and respect that he has within the NFL, that's what's just so obvious. ... They trust him, they know he's going to do what he says he's going to do. And I think seeing him energizes the meetings. ...

    "To be the new kid on the block, and to watch that all unfold, it's clearly obvious how much respect and trust they have in Mr. Richardson."

    — He said he's been encouraged by talks toward new sponsorship deals in the soft-drink and automotive category. The Panthers lacked an automotive sponsor last year. "We feel good we're making some progress there," he said. 

— Darin Gantt

Posted by Observer Sports on March 29, 2010 at 08:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (36)

Panthers get four more under contract

    The Panthers took care of a little housekeeping, getting their four exclusive-rights free agents signed.

    WRs Kenny Moore and Charly Martin, DT Nick Hayden and LB Jordan Senn signed their one-year deals last week. Their contracts had expired after last season, but they weren't able to negotiate with other teams.

    The Panthers have another two weeks and change to worry about their own restricted free agents, as the deadline for RFAs to sign offer sheets is April 15. 

    CBs Richard Marshall and C.J. Wilson are staying away from offseason workouts, but the rest are either working out here or are otherwise accounted for (rehabbing injuries).

— Darin Gantt

Posted by Observer Sports on March 29, 2010 at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

March 26, 2010

Carolina Panthers links for Friday

Friday's Carolina Panthers links:

Where will help for Steve Smith come from? / Charlotte Observer

John Fox not a fan of 3-day draft format / Charlotte Observer

Fox, GM risk jobs on unproven Moore / CBS Sports

With Peppers in fold, Bears shopping Alex Brown / Chicago Tribune

Posted by Observer Sports on March 26, 2010 at 06:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

March 25, 2010

Carolina Panthers links for Thursday

Thursday's Carolina Panthers links:

Fox not freaked out by contract situation / Charlotte Observer

Free agents picked over, but possibilities remain / Charlotte Observer

Tebow a Panther? Fox keeps eye on Gator QB / Charlotte Observer

DeAngelo Williams on trade block? No, Fox says / Charlotte Observer

Posted by Observer Sports on March 25, 2010 at 09:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 24, 2010

Panthers' draft spots announced

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NFL today released the full order of picks for next month's draft.

The Carolina Panthers don't have a first-round selection, trading what turned out to be the 17th overall choice to San Francisco in order to pick defensive end Everette Brown in the 2009 second round. The Panthers also landed running back Mike Goodson in the '09 fourth round as part of the deal.

The Panthers have eight picks -- their selections for Rounds 2, 3, 4 and 7, along with a sixth-round selection acquired from Oakland, plus two compensatory picks in the sixth round and one in the seventh.

The compensatories were awarded this week for the Panthers losing three players to other team last year as unrestricted free agency signees -- offensive linenemen Geoff Hangartner (Buffalo) and Frank Omiyale (Chicago). and kick returner Mark Jones (Tennessee).

The Panthers traded away their fifth- and sixth-round selectios, respectively, last year for defensive tackles Tank Tyler (Kansas City) and Louis Leonard (Cleveland).

According to the NFL, the Panthers' picks look like this:

Round 1 -- Traded to San Francisco (17th overall).

Round 2 -- 48th overall (16th in round)

Round 3 -- 78th (15th)

Round 4 -- 112th (14th)

Round 5 -- Traded to Kansas City (144th, 13th)

Round 6 -- Acquired from Oakland (175th, 6th)

 Traded to Cleveland (186th, 17th)

 Compensatory (202nd, 33rd)

 Compensatory (204th, 35th)

Round 7 -- 223rd (16th)

 Compensatory (249th, 42nd)

(Note: NFL.com originally listed the Panthers' second-round pick as No. 47 in an online report last month, which the Observer cited).

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on March 24, 2010 at 10:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

DeAngelo to Lions? No way, says Fox

   ORLANDO, Fla. -- Since the Carolina Panthers don't have a first-round draft pick, there's been speculation in recent weeks about whether the team would dare trade one of their two premier running backs, DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart, in order to garner a first-round selection.

   Coach John Fox made it clear this morning that no such thing is in the team's plans.

   Told that the Detroit Lions were in need of running back help and asked if they'd called the Panthers about Williams, who has one year remaining on his contract, Fox said:

   "We have not received any phone calls," Fox said at a media breakfast for NFC coaches at the league's annual meetings. "He wouldn't be one of the guys on the top of my lists to deal (away). We've had no conversations about any of our backs."

   Fox said the Panthers were committed to keeping Williams and Stewart, who last season became the first pair of teammates in NFL history to each rush for 1,100 yards in the same season.

   "We're not looking to get rid of those guys," he said.

   "They're both very, very capable and, in my opinion, if you're going to lean on the run game, you need more than one."

   -- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on March 24, 2010 at 01:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

Fox discusses who'll kick off, says there's no need for moves at RG, DT positions

   ORLANDO, Fla. -- Panthers coach John Fox said punter Jason Baker is getting prepared to kick off next season if necessary, but that the team still might bring in a kickoff specialist to replace the departed Rhys Lloyd.

   "Jason has done it before," said Fox, referring to the fact that Baker kicked off in a combined 26 games in 2003 and '04 for Kansas City, Indianapolis and Denver.

   "He is a viable candidate. We have him training for that now as we speak."

   But the Panthers also are open to bringing in a new kicker to compete for the kickoff job.

   John Kasay, at age 40, remains one of the league's top field goal and extra point kickers, but likely won't be called upon to kick off anymore.

   "We're always looking for somebody else," Fox said this morning at a media breakfast with NFC head coaches at the league meetings.

   The Panthers decided not to give Lloyd a tender offer as a restricted free agent. The minimum offer they could make was $1.101 million.

   However, Fox indicated that the reasons for letting go of Lloyd, who has signed with Minnesota, went beyond financial considerations.

   "We just thought it was time to move," said Fox. "He had an excellent year the year before (in 2008). He's still very capable. We just felt it was time to go in a different direction."

   Lloyd led the NFL with 30 touchbacks (kickoffs into the end zone that weren't returned) in '08, most in the NFL since the introduction of the K-Ball for kickoffs in 1999. His total was eight more than any other player.

   Last season, Lloyd tied for sixth in the league with 21 touchbacks, eight behind Dallas' Michael Buehler.


  For said the Panthers aren't in the market to sign a new right guard despite the fact that the starter for the past two seasons, Keydrick Vincent, remains an unsigned unrestricted free agent. He also said the team isn't looking to make moves at defensive tackle even though Maake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis were released.

   "Right now -- of course, we haven't played a down yet -- I think those are areas that might be (two) of our more solid areas, our O-line and defensive tackle," said Fox. "That's not to say we wouldn't move or look or change ot try to create new people there, but that's not high on the priority list right now."

   Fox wouldn't identify a favorite to start at right guard, but said the candidates include Mackenzy Bernadeau, Geoff Schwartz and Duke Robinson.

   At defensive tackle, the Panthers are expected to start Louis Leonard and Tank Tyler, both restricted free agents who were acquired last year via trades. The reserves include former Colts starter Ed Johnson, '09 third-round pick Corvey Irvin, Nick Hayden and Derek Landri.

   -- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on March 24, 2010 at 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Fox high on Tebow

   ORLANDO, Fla. -- Count Carolina Panthers coach John Fox among the NFL's talent evaluators who believe Florida's Tim Tebow can be a successful NFL quarterback.

   Fox spoke highly of Tebow at a media breakfast with NFC coaches this morning at the league's annual meetings. Asked about Tebow's much-debated throwing delivery, Fox said:

 "Did you ever watch (former Cleveland quarterback) Bernie Kosar play? Bernie might not appreciate it, but I call it as I see it. He won a lot of games. So it's not all just how pretty they are, (or) how big. That's part of it, no doubt. It'll be a factor. It'll be well-debated."

   Fox attended Tebow's pro day workout at Florida last week and has met with Tebow in pre-draft interviews.

   The Panthers could consider Tebow with their opening pick in the middle of the second round. However, they also must weigh their pressing need for help at positions such as defensive end and wide receiver.

    Fox acknowledged that there are extreme viewpoints on whether or not Tebow can become an effective pro quarterback.

   "I think you'll get 32 different opinions, and it'll be interesting," said Fox. "But I think he's proven he's had great success at the college level. That probably counts for something. That's how we evaluate these guys.

   "Where that fits and trying to predict where he goes (in the draft), I can't honestly tell you and I'm not going to give you my exact evaluation."

   Fox has said many times, including today, that he strongly considers intangible qualities when evaluating quarterbacks, and that Tebow scores high in that area.

   "I'd say he's up there pretty good," Fox said with a smile.

   "I think he's different in a good way. He has a lot of respect among his peers. They won a lot of games at Florida. He kind of had a similar background in high school, where he took a team to a state championship. In Florida, that's a pretty big deal.

   "You look at those things and he's shown the ability to lead men, albeit young men, but they're still men. In fact, that might be harder."

   Fox also made it clear he likes Tebow's toughness. One of the more memorable images of Tebow from his Florida career was when he was bleeding from cuts sustained in a game, but continued to play.

   "That's part of being a leader," said Fox. "When things are tough, (it's) how you respond (and) how you react to motivate other people. I think he's done that over time. That's my own personal opinion. That's very important at that position."

   -- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on March 24, 2010 at 09:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

Fox: Williams, Stewart not up for trade

Here are highlights from an interview with Panthers coach John Fox at the NFC coaches' media breakfast this morning. More coming later in the day:

-- Fox said the Panthers are not interested in trading either of their top running backs, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. He's counting on both of them.

-- Richard Marshall isn't the only restricted free agent not participating in the team's offseason conditioning program. Cornerback C.J. Wilson isn't either. However, Fox expects them to participate in the team's mandatory post-draft minicamp.

-- It's clear that Fox is high on Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. "He's different in a good way," said Fox. "He's shown the ability to lead men." Asked about Tebow's much-criticized throwing motion, Fox said, "Did you ever watch Bernie Kosar play?" Kosar was a standout quarterback for the Cleveland Browns who's throwing much was far from orthodox.

-- Fox said punter Jason Baker is currently working on kickoffs in case he gets that role next season. However, Fox left open the possibility that the team will acquire a kickoff specialist. Fox said the reason Rhys Lloyd wasn't retained was because the team felt it was time to move in a different direction. He referenced the fact that Lloyd had a strong season in 2008, but didn't say anything about Lloyd's performance in '09. The Panthers didn';t tender Lloyd as a restricted free agent and he has signed with Minnesota.

-- Fox said all the team's injured players, including left tackle Jordan Gross and outside linebacker Thomas Davis, are expected to be ready for training camp.

-- HE said the Panthers would get his best as a coach despite the fact that he's in the unenviable position of being in the final year of his contract. He said it's part of the business of the game, much like players experience. "It's called free agency," said Fox.

However, he would not speculate on whether he would eventually sign an extension with the Panthers or head into next season as a free agent coach.

-- He said it's likely that the Panthers will add a defensive end either in the draft or free agency to team with Tyler Brayton, Charles Johnson and Everette Brown.

-- Charles Chandler

Posted by Observer Sports on March 24, 2010 at 08:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)