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September 30, 2011

Otah questionable for game vs. Bears

Just when it looked like Panthers right tackle Jeff Otah would be OK health-wise, the team has downgraded the oft-injured player from probable to questionable for Sunday's game at Chicago.

Otah has been dealing with a lower back injury this week. After Otah practiced in a limited basis Friday, his back tightened up, according to a team official.

Otah, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, was sidelined for the Week 2 loss against Green Bay with a concussion.

Undrafted rookie free agent Byron Bell started in place of Otah against the Packers, and held his own against outside linebacker Clay Matthews.

If Otah can't play Sunday, Bell will face an even tougher task in trying to block former Panthers DE Julius Peppers, who lines up at both end spots for the Bears.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on September 30, 2011 at 05:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

Butler expected to start in place of Gamble Sunday

Cornerback Chris Gamble is likely to miss the Panthers' game Sunday against Chicago after sitting out the team's Friday workout as he continues to recover from a concussion he suffered last week.

Head coach Ron Rivera said Darius Butler will replace Gamble in the starting lineup against the Bears. After initially saying they expected Gamble to make a quick recovery from the concussion, he didn't practice this week, raising the likelihood he will sit out the Chicago game.

Butler, who was claimed off the waiver wire from New England, has impressed Rivera with his man-to-man coverage skills.

"He's played well," Rivera said. "He's played a lot of very good football for a good organization. For him to come in and be part of what we do, I feel very comfortable with that.

"He's a physical guy that runs well, has good closing speed. He has good hands and a good break on the ball."

Tackle Jeff Otah was limited in Friday's practice due to a back problem but Rivera said he's expected to play Sunday. Also, defensive end Charles Johnson missed practice due to an excused absence for personal reasons.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 30, 2011 at 01:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

September 29, 2011

Gamble misses practice; could miss Bears game

Cornerback Chris Gamble missed practice again Thursday due to a concussion and head coach Ron Rivera is less optimistic about the Panthers' No. 1 cornerback being able to play Sunday at Chicago.

Rivera said Gamble will be reevaluated Friday before a determination is made about his availability against the Bears.

"I'm disappointed. He was feeling better the other day and we thought he might have turned the corner," Rivera said.

"Unfortunately, he didn't feel well today. So we'll continue to follow protocol. We'll see how it goes."

Already this season, tackle Jeff Otah and safety Charles Godfrey have missed games while dealing with concussions. Rivera had been optimistic neither would miss a game but both were out one game.

"I'm hoping (Gamble) bucks the trend. I really do," Rivera said. "He's having a good season. He's playing very well for us, doing things we need him to do. If there's a chance, I'd love to have him play. If not, I understand."

If he plays, Gamble would likely be matched up against Bears wide receiver Roy Williams.

Should Gamble be unable to play, Rivera said Darius Butler will start in his place. Butler was a waiver claim from New England earlier this season. He was a second-draft pick in 2009.

"Darius is not a young guy that hasn't played," Rivera said. "This guy's played, and he's played some major football, obviously and has been a starter and done some great things and big things. So I'm not concerned at all."

-- Ron Green Jr.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 29, 2011 at 04:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Otah says he's okay; Newton named rookie of month

  Offensive tackle Jeff Otah said he expects to be fine for Sunday despite being bothered by a back problem earlier this week.

 Otah said his back tightened up on him Tuesday but after treatment said his back has improved.

 "Feeling good," Otah said.

 He may see some duty trying to contain Bears' Pro Bowler Julius Peppers and has a sense of what he'll be up against.

 "I blocked him a couple of times in training camp my rookie year. He's a great player," Otah said.

 "He's a guy you can't stop. You have to bring your game and have your technique and be ready to fight out there.

 NEWTON HONORED: Quarterback Cam Newton has been named NFL offensive rookie of the month, becoming the third Panther to be so honored.

 Previously Julius Peppers (2002) and Matt Moore (2007) have received also received rookie of the month honors.

 Newton passed for 1,012 yards, the most ever by a player in his first three games. He has thrown four touchdown passes and rushed for two scores in the Panthers' 1-2 start.

 Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan was the defensive rookie of the month.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 29, 2011 at 02:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

September 28, 2011

VIDEO: Panthers prepare for Bears

Joe Person talks about Sunday's Carolina Panthers big test against the Chicago Bears, including Charles Johnson molding himself after Julius Peppers and a surprise addition to the Panthers' injury list:


Posted by Observer Sports on September 28, 2011 at 07:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Lovie Smith: Decision to let Rivera go was not personal

Lovie Smith was not in a reflective mood Wednesday during a conference call with Charlotte reporters.

Smith, whose Bears team faces the Panthers on Sunday, made it clear he was not thrilled about discussing his decisions to part ways with Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and tight end Greg Olsen – who coached with and played for Smith in Chicago, respectively.

Asked to talk about the trade that sent Olsen to Carolina for a third-round pick at the start of training camp, Smith said: “I'd rather not.”

He went on to say Olsen was “a force” when he was with the Bears, as well as “good guy in the locker room and the community.”

Olsen, who is off to a good start with the Panthers, said he never asked out of Chicago, which had de-emphasized the role of the tight ends in Mike Martz's passing offense.

Smith seemed to indicate Olsen's blocking ability was at least part of the reason the Bears moved him.

“Tight end's a big part of what we do. … It's just not always pass-catching,” Smith said. “There's a lot of things we ask our tight end to do. We have a tight end on the field most of the time, I'll say that.”

Rivera was not Smith's first choice as defensive coordinator when he arrived in Chicago in 2004. Smith wanted to hire Rod Marinelli, but Tampa Bay would not let him out of his contract.

So the Bears front office encouraged Smith to bring in Rivera, who played his entire nine-year career with the organization. Rivera was the coordinator for three years, including in 2006 when the Bears went to the Super Bowl.

But Smith chose not to renew Rivera's contract after the Super Bowl season. Instead, he promoted Bob Babich, and Rivera was hired as a linebackers coach in San Diego.

When a reporter asked Smith about not retaining Rivera, Smith said: “I'll tell you, we're really living in the past today.”

“Ron Rivera did a great job for us when he was here,” Smith added. “Each year, you as a head coach decide on what direction you're going forward. That's what I decided. I went in a different direction there.

“No more than that – nothing personal. I wasn't disappointed in the job he did here. It's worked out for both of us.”

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on September 28, 2011 at 02:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

September 25, 2011

VIDEO: Panthers, Newton get first victory

Joe Person talks about the best and worst of Cam Newton's first career victory as the Carolina Panthers beat the Jacksonville Jaguars:


Posted by Observer Sports on September 25, 2011 at 08:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Panthers hold off Jaguars 16-10

Greg Olsen caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton with 4:20 remaining, providing the Carolina Panthers with the winning touchdown in a 16-10 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

The victory gives the Panthers (1-2) their first victory of the season and the first of Ron Rivera's career as a head coach. Olsen's touchdown catch made it 14-10, and the Panthers increased it to 16-10 when they went for two -- with Newton again connecting with Olsen. The Jaguars (1-2) tried to drive for a winning touchdown, but Jacksonville ran out of time.

The Panthers play at Chicago next week.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 25, 2011 at 04:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

Third-quarter blog: Jaguars 10, Panthers 8

The Jaguars opened the second half by staying on the ground. That worked for a while on their opening drive (picking up three first downs on eight consecutive runs), but quarterback Blaine Gabbert fumbled a snap (recovered by the Jaguars) and Deji Karim was stopped for a 6-yard loss.

The Panthers caught a break when Jaguars punter Matt Turk mishandled a snap later in the quarter. He picked the ball up but was brought down by Carolina's Richie Brockel at the Jaguars 38. The Panthers could only manage a 32-yard field goal from Olindo Mare out of it, however, and trailed 10-8 with 2:18 left in the third quarter.

And that's how the quarter ended, Jacksonville 10-8. -- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on September 25, 2011 at 03:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Second quarter blog: Jags 10, Panthers 5

Jacksonville stayed in its two-deep, Newton continued to struggle and it started raining at Bank of America Stadium.


The Panthers took a 5-0 lead early in the quarter on a 35-yard field goal by Olindo Mare.

But the Jaguars answered with their own field goal drive – a drive extended by a penalty by Panthers DE George Selvie on a Jags' punt. Josh Scobee's 53-yard field goal pulled Jacksonville to 5-3.

With the rain coming down in buckets the last half of the quarter, teams struggled to hold on to the ball.

But the Jags stunned the Panthers with a 36-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert to Mike Thomas as time expired. Maurice Jones-Drew had a 39-yard run into Panthers' territory with six seconds left, and the Panthers went into a prevent defense.

But Gabbert hit Thomas around the 7, and safety Sherrod Martin missed a hit on him at the 2, giving the Jags a 10-5 and shocking the waterlogged crowd.


Posted by Observer Sports on September 25, 2011 at 02:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)