February 28, 2011
A surprise at No. 1 for the Panthers?
Observer reporter Joe Person talks about the NFL Draft Combine:
February 27, 2011
Newton shaky in throwing drills
(From the event now known as the Cambine, an update on Auburn quarterback Cam Newton from this afternoon's passing drills.)
After Newton's private workout in California a couple of weeks ago, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said anyone could throw in shorts. It wasn't that simple for Newton today at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Newton struggled with his accuracy, going 1-for-6 on out routes. He was missing high, which George Whitfield, his QB tutor, pointed out is where you want to miss on that route.
An underthrow or a pass thrown behind a receiver running an out could result in a pick-six (Panther fans saw a few of those last season).
Newton showed off his cannon arm. Though he was 0-for-3 on go routes, he certainly did not miss short.
He demonstrated nice touch by completing 2 of his 3 passes on corner routes.
All in all, an uneven performance, but not one that's going to hurt his draft status. Everyone knew coming in Newton needed polish with his pass sets and technique.
His interviews are still his most important test here. And reporters don't get to sit in on those.
This just in: Newton athletic
Auburn QB Cam Newton put up some more impressive numbers in the early portion of his workout at the scouting combine Sunday morning.
Newton ran his 40-yard dashes in unofficial times of 4.58 and 4.59 seconds, blazing times for a 6-foot-5, 248-pounder. More impressive were his standing broad jump numbers of 10 feet, 6 inches and 10-3.
While the "gymnastics" portions of the process may not impress some, what he proved this morning was that he's an extremely explosive athlete.
The broad jump is one of the measures scouts look at to determine that burst a player needs on the field in many instances.
He's scheduled to throw soon, and we'll update that as the afternoon goes on.
-- Darin Gantt
February 26, 2011
Panthers to bring Shockey in for physical
At his introductory press conference in January, Ron Rivera said he would prefer the Panthers find one tight end rather than the committee approach they used last season.
They might have found him. Emphasis on might.
The Panthers will bring veteran TE Jeremy Shockey in for a physical next week and could reunite Shockey with his University of Miami position coach – Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
The move makes sense on a couple of levels, beginning with Shockey's familiarity with Chudzinski. Plus, as Rivera intimated at his presser, the type of offense he wants to run requires a capable tight end.
An AFC coordinator said this week the offense in San Diego, where Rivera and Chudzinski coached under Norv Turner, features a lot of route combinations involving the tight end.
The Chargers have one of the best in Antonio Gates.
When healthy, the 30-year-old Shockey, who was released by New Orleans last week, was among the top pass-catching tight ends in the league.
But there are a couple of potential obstacles, beginning with Shockey's health.
He's spent a decade in the NFL and had career lows in receptions (41) and receiving yards (408) last season with the Saints. Shockey, who had one season and $4.2 million in base salary left on his Saints' contract, battled injuries in each of his three seasons in New Orleans.
However, Shockey passed a physical for the Dolphins last week, according to an ESPN report.
Complicating matters is the looming lockout. Shockey would have to sign a contract before the current labor deal expires at the end of the day Thursday.
Early thoughts on Newton
Obviously we'll have more on this later, but Auburn QB Cam Newton just finished up his media session, the most heavily attended and scrutinized of the combine so far.
Newton began by reading a statement, distancing himself from the "icon" comments made earlier in the week.
He took many questions about his issues at Florida and his father, admitted some mistakes, and generally came across as forthcoming. There were a few first-person references, but the kid has an undeniable star quality.
There were no references to the Panthers specifically, but he did mentioned meeting with the Dallas Cowboys last night.
We'll have more soon, but considering the flaming train-wreck Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett had put on moments earlier (avoiding all questions about rumors of drug use), Newton came out well.
-- Darin Gantt
Richardson in town for CBA update
INDIANAPOLIS -- Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was in Indianapolis Saturday, but it wasn’t for scouting purposes.
Richardson, who co-chair’s the league’s labor committee, was part of a meeting to apprise owners of the state of CBA negotiations, according to the NFL Network.
Owners haven’t been involved in the last week of mediated talks with the union in Washington, but with the clock ticking toward the March 4 deadline for a deal, commissioner Roger Goodell used the session to update the committee.
Also involved were Pat Bowlen, Robert Kraft, Art Rooney, John Mara, Jerry Jones, Dean Spanos, Clark Hunt and Mark Murphy.
-- Darin Gantt
February 25, 2011
Gabbert has a quiet confidence
We'll have more in tomorrow's paper about Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert, the next quarterback in most people's minds after that Cam Newton guy (who is scheduled to meet with the media Saturday).
But while Newton has taken a beating for his "icon" comments earlier this week, Gabbert wasn't yielding much ground when asked about the pecking order of passers in this draft.
"I think that's what you guys are making it out to be, kind of me vs. Cam," Gabbert said with a grin.
At the same time, there was an undercurrent of confidence to everything Gabbert said.
Asked to compare himself to Newton, and you could almost sense a bit of a challenge at the end of a heavily scripted answer.
"Cam's an explosive athlete," Gabbert said. "You've seen what he has done at the college level. He's won a JUCO national championship, won the national championship at Division I level.
"He's been extremely successful, so he has all the talent in the world but we're going to compete and fight it out and may the best man win."
-- Darin Gantt
Saunders says he lied to NCAA
Weslye Saunders is back in Indy for the second time in five months.
The former South Carolina tight end hopes this week's trip is better than the last one.
Saunders tried unsuccessfully in October to be reinstated by the NCAA, which suspended him for the 2010 season for lying to investigators who were probing agent-related activity at North Carolina.
Saunders said he was trying to protect his friend, Tar Heels defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who was at the center of the UNC probe and was later kicked off the team. Saunders said he took trips last year with Austin to Atlanta and Washington, D.C., Austin's hometown.
Saunders said a friend paid for his trip to D.C. He later mentioned accepting gifts from a Columbia friend whom the NCAA classified as a runner for an agent.
Saunders said NCAA officials told him he likely would have been suspended for a game or two had he been honest in his first two meetings with investigators, which Saunders compared to a murder investigation.
During a four-hour session on a hot August day, Saunders said investigators “pretty much put two recorders in my face and started drilling me with questions.”
Added Saunders: “They didn't feel I'd given as much information as I possibly could have and that I withheld information trying to protect myself and my friends at UNC.”
Saunders, who caught 32 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns in 2009, said he paid for his October trip to Indianapolis to lobby for reinstatement. He said he did not feel like he had the support of athletics director Eric Hyman or the school's administration.
“He pretty much said I was the cause of the whole university being investigated, other athletes. It basically started around me,” Saunders said Friday.
“And at the end of the day, I don't want to say I was the scapegoat. But it was me who caused all of that hoopla. So they were less inclined to let me back on the team as, say, another player.”
Saunders was considered one of the top tight end prospects before the 2010 season, but acknowledged his stock slipped while he sat out. He hopes a good showing here this week will help.
Saunders said he's heard from several teams, including the Panthers, who are looking for a pass-catching tight end for coordinator Rob Chudzinski's offense.
Clausen: Experience will help
Panthers QB Jimmy Clausen did an interview with former Dallas WR Michael Irvin on WQAM in Miami. Here's a transcript, via www.sportsradiointerviews.com:
What his rookie season in the NFL was like:
“You know it was definitely a tough season for us going 2-14. We definitely had a lot of ups and downs, mostly downs this season, but the biggest thing I am going to take away from this season is just the experience and just going through the entire season struggling and going through that adversity. I think that is just going to help us down the road and there is a lot of things I learned. I picked up the speed of the game, more knowledge of playing in the National Football League and just trying to make plays out there. Like I said, I dealt with a lot of adversity this year and I just think that it is going to help down the road.”
If Carolina has a solid group of young players that to build upon to make a run at a Super Bowl in the coming years:
“Definitely. There is a great group of guys assembled in Carolina. That is the exciting part, obviously, we were young last year and will still be this upcoming year but growing together and being real young is just going to help us down the road. Like you said, going 1-15 and then 3-12 and just keep building upon that you guys went to four Super Bowls after that, I think. That is our goal right now to keep building and improving from the year before.”
Whether he was ready to play when he became the starting quarterback last season:
“I don’t know. You always have to be ready to be called on. That is what they drafted you for. Some guys have that time to be able to sit back and watch and I got to do that for the first three quarters of the game in the first game of the season and I got thrown in there on the last series cause Matt Moore went down, but you just have to be ready to go from day one. I think it was a tough situation but at the end of the day it is only going to help me get better.”
What kind of experience the NFL Scouting Combine is and how important it is in the draft:
“You know I think it is definitely important. The draft is a long, long process and the combine is a big portion of that process and you have your Pro Day and then you are just waiting, sitting back until draft day. For me, last year going in I couldn’t workout or do anything because I just had surgery on my foot but it is a good time to go into those meetings and meet the coaches, meet the general managers, and just to sit with them one-on-one face-to-face and sometimes it is going to be the first time you are going to meet a head coach or a general manger, so you could get your story out there and just get a feel for that and they could get a feel for you as well.”
What it is like to be around the best NFL prospects at the Scouting Combine after playing and watching them:
“It is awesome. It is an amazing experience. For the guys that are going through it right now, it is going to be a tough time for them because they have a lot of things to deal with but at the end of the day it is a dream come true for them and they get the opportunity to go out there on the field and compete with the best college players in their class coming out. It is a great experience meeting different guys you either watched or played against that those relationships and friendships will last for the rest of your life.”
-- Darin Gantt
UNC players lament what might have been
North Carolina has 12 players represented at the NFL scouting combine.
That's more than Auburn, more than Oregon, more than any other school in the country.
Too bad the Tar Heels didn't have all of them last season.
Among the dozen UNC players in attendance here, seven missed games as a result of the NCAA investigation that rocked Butch Davis' program last fall.
One of those players – wideout Greg Little – met with the media Friday and took responsibility for bringing NCAA investigators to Chapel Hill to look into the agent-funded trip Little and defensive tackle Marvin Austin took to South Beach.
“It was tough to know that essentially I started the whole investigation. And that was one of the things that was very bearing and very hard to deal with,” Little said. “It was something that will haunt me forever to know that my team could have won the national championship (had) I played along with them.”
Little said former UNC assistant John Blake, who was fired for his role in the scandal, was not involved in any of his issues.
Asked if there was anything more UNC could have done to educate its players, Little said: “If you don't know, ask. And that would have alleviated a lot of problems.”
“But there's some accountability on my part, as well,” he added. “I knew what I was doing was wrong. For me to be that naive and ignorant about it was stupidity on my part.”
Tar Heels quarterback T.J. Yates said he couldn't help but think about what could have been last season.
“I'd challenge anybody to go look somewhere else for some worse adversity in a team and a program because we had it from all angles as far as NCAA and academic stuff,” Yates said.
“And on top of that, we had a ton of injuries. There were times we were stretching our depth charts in the middle of games to fifth-string running back. Coach Davis would look on the sideline the asking if anyone could run down on kickoff. It got pretty hectic at some points. But I don't think any other team in the country went through what we did and we still salvaged a very good season out of it.