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July 31, 2012

The latest on Jeff Otah returning to Panthers

SPARTANBURG

Just when Carolina fans thought they'd seen the last of Jeff Otah, the injury-plagued offensive tackle is back with the Panthers after his trade to the New York Jets was voided when Otah failed his physical with New York.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said he expects to meet with Otah on Wednesday in Spartanburg, where Otah will undergo a physical.

The Panthers can keep Otah on the physically unable to perform list, activate him, cut him or try to trade him.

Hurney said there were other teams interested in Otah before the trade with the Jets was finalized.

“There were (teams interested) before, so I don't know,” Hurney said. “But I don't want to talk much about that. We'll just see.”

A team source said it's unlikely Otah remains with the Panthers, who made the decision last week to part ways with him and turn the right tackle position over to Byron Bell. Bell, a second-year player who started 12 games last season with Otah out, has been working ahead of Bruce Campbell and Garry Williams.

“It's the way it is. We tried to make a deal. Unfortunately, they didn't want it,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “So now we're back with Jeff. We'll see him tomorrow. Marty and I will sit down and we'll visit and we'll go from there.”

The Panthers received a seventh-round pick from the Jets in exchange for Otah, but the trade was dependent on Otah passing his physical. After failing his initial physical with the Jets, Otah had until Tuesday to pass it or the deal would be voided.

Otah has missed 31 of the last 35 games due to issues with his left knee, which flared up again during organized team activities.

Otah had a MRI in May and visited well-known sports orthopedist James Andrews, who said there was nothing structurally wrong with Otah's knee, according to the Panthers.

The Panthers have a roster spot available for Otah; defensive end/linebacker Jyles Tucker was cut after leaving camp last weekend.

Otah, 26, a first-round draft pick in 2008, is due to make nearly $1.1 million this year.

A call to Otah's agent, Eric Metz, was not immediately returned.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on July 31, 2012 at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (50)

July 30, 2012

Panthers get their licks in for the first time

   Monday night was rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly's first practice in pads as a Carolina Panther but he already knew what to expect Tuesday morning.

   "That's football now. You're going to wake up and feel stuff in your neck and your shoulders you haven't felt in a while," Kuechly said.

    The Panthers had another long evening workout Monday, watched by receiver Steve Smith and linebacker Thomas Davis, who were given the night off. Davis was off as a precautionary measure, head coach Ron Rivera said while Smith, a 12-year veteran, was given a breather.

   The only injury Monday night appeared to be rookie cornerback Josh Norman, who left the field with his left thigh wrapped. Head coach Ron Rivera said he was optimistic Norman's hamstring injury isn't serious.

   The Panthers will take a training camp break from Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon then get back to hitting.

   The Panthers are gradually layering in more offense and defense each day. Unlike a year ago when it was a cram course due to the lockout, this is more leisurely but still with an element of urgency.

   There's plenty still to be determined. Rivera said there's open competition for placekicker and punter. Veteran Olindo Mare handled all the field goal attempts Monday night and didn't miss.

   Free agent Jared Green made an impression Monday night with a long pass reception and by chasing down linebacker Jon Beason after he intercepted a pass. Seyi Ajirotutu has also flashed in the early workouts as the Panthers begin sorting through their receiver options.

 

 

Posted by Observer Sports on July 30, 2012 at 08:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

O.J. Murdock suicide hits home for Panthers DE ... again

SPARTANBURG

For the second time in two years, Panthers defensive end Eric Norwood is struggling to understand the suicide of a former college teammate after Titans receiver O.J. Murdock died of a self-inflicted gunshot Monday morning in his Tampa hometown.

Norwood played at South Carolina with Murdock and Broncos receiver Kenny McKinley, who shot himself in 2010.

“It's crazy when you look at. It may have been different circumstances for the both of them and what they were going through,” Norwood said. “But it's just crazy that two guys from the same era, two wide receivers who were pretty good friends. I still haven't really processed it all.”

Norwood said he had kept in touch with Murdock, who was 25, via Twitter. Murdock, an undrafted free agent in 2011 who missed last season with an Achilles injury, did not report to the Titans' training camp last week due to what the team called personal reasons.

“I send my condolences out to his family, friends, the whole Murdock family,” Norwood said. “He was a real good guy. He was always smiling, just like Kenny. As far as I know, the time he was there at South Carolina, he encouraged people. Even when he wasn't playing, he was just upbeat.”

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on July 30, 2012 at 03:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Cam Newton: Panthers 'just scratching the surface'

SPARTANBURG

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said he has nothing specific he wants to improve on during his second season – just the “little things” following a record-breaking, Rookie-of-the-Year debut.

Just working on being great,” Newton said Monday. “It's the little things. Everybody wants to win the big hoo-rah, the Super Bowl. But let's worry about today.”

Newton, who broke Peyton Manning's rookie passing record in 2011, brought the Panthers back from the wilderness after a 2-14 finish in John Fox's dysfunctional, lame-duck season.

The Panthers drew a crowd of nearly 13,000 to their first practice Saturday night at Wofford.

There's a vibe going around the whole Carolinas, and it's a good vibe. The sad thing about it is we're only just scratching the surface. We went 6-10 last year. That's nothing to be happy about,” Newton said.

But at the same time … it's a buzz and it's a potential that this team has. But like the saying says, potential ain't never won nothing.”

Newton said he supported center Ryan Kalil's Super Bowl promise in a full-page ad last week in the Charlotte Observer. And he praised rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly's natural instincts.

Kalil and veteran tackle Jordan Gross both said they've seen Newton take on more of a leadership role in his second season.

It's already given. There's certain positions in this league where leadership comes with the price of admission,” Newton said. “I play quarterback. That's the most scrutinized, criticized and critiqued position of all of sports, I believe. So when you play this position, you have to have a certain leadership that everybody looks for, whether you want it or not.”

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on July 30, 2012 at 01:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Panthers cut Jyles Tucker after he leaves camp

SPARTANBURG

Panthers free agent Jyles Tucker has been cut after the veteran linebacker/defensive end left training camp. Tucker played for Panthers coach Ron Rivera in San Diego, but was out of football last season after the Chargers released him.

“It was something he had to. So we'll leave it at that and go from there,” Rivera said Monday. “It was strictly a personal instance. There's nothing bad, nothing like that.”

Tucker's agent, David Canter, confirmed the move.

A team source said Tucker had discussed the possibility of retiring before reporting to camp.

Tucker, 28, signed a one-year contract for the veteran minimum of $700,000 during the offseason, and was expected to add depth and versatility. Rivera recently mentioned Tucker as a player who could play outside linebacker when the Panthers line up in a 3-4.

The Panthers have not announced a corresponding roster move.

--Joseph Person

 

Posted by Observer Sports on July 30, 2012 at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)

Panthers cut Jyles Tucker after he leaves camp

SPARTANBURG

Panthers free agent Jyles Tucker has been cut after the veteran linebacker/defensive end left training camp. Tucker played for Panthers coach Ron Rivera in San Diego, but was out of football last season after the Chargers released him.

“It was something he had to so. So we'll leave it at that and go from there,” Rivera said Monday. “It was strictly a personal instance. There's nothing bad, nothing like that.”

Tucker's agent, David Canter, confirmed the move.

A team source said Tucker had discussed the possibility of retiring before reporting to camp.

Tucker, 28, signed a one-year contract for the veteran minimum of $700,000 during the offseason, and was expected to add depth and versatility. Rivera recently mentioned Tucker as a player who could play outside linebacker when the Panthers line up in a 3-4.

The Panthers have not announced a corresponding roster move.

--Joseph Person

 

Posted by Observer Sports on July 30, 2012 at 12:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 29, 2012

Beason thrilled to be back on the field

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Linebacker Jon Beason has had almost a year to think about what he was without when his Achilles ruptured in the Panthers' 2011 season opener.

   What did Beason learn while he was sidelined?

   "We're all paying rent," Beason said Sunday at training camp. "At the end of the day, whether you're the best in the game or the best to ever do it, when it's over somebody else is going to do it and they'll be talking about the next big-time linebacker. You learn to appreciate each moment and each play that you have.

   "For me, not to say Dan Marino and Charles Barkley didn't have great careers, but those are always the two guys that come to mind in terms of not winning a championship. When you do get hurt, you should be appreciative of the opportunity to come back and then at the same time know you've got to try to win it now because nothing is promised tomorrow."

   Beason started 65 consecutive games at middle linebacker for the Panthers before going down at Arizona last September. His rehab was motivated, Beason said, by the goal of being where is today, anxious for the first padded practices to take place Monday evening.

   Listen to Beason talk and you can hear the excitement in his voice. He wants to play again and he's willing to help in any way he can.

   "I don't want to limit myself. I think I can do a lot of things. I think I can play offense, too," Beason said. "They don't need me over there apparently. They're scoring 27 points a game.

   Asked what position he might play on offense, Beason said he could play tailback, tight end, wide receiver or quarterback.

   "Just put me in, coach," Beason said.

  -- Ron Green Jr.

 

Posted by Observer Sports on July 29, 2012 at 09:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 28, 2012

Panthers, 12,000 friends celebrate a fresh start

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- If you think watching football practice can't be exciting, you probably weren't one of the 12,000 or so fans who showed up to watch the Carolina Panthers first open practice of the season Saturday night at Wofford.

   There was a band. There were concession stands. There were cheers. A lot of them.

   When Cam Newton ran out of bounds after a nifty run where he wasn't allowed to be tackled, the fans cheered. When Steve Smith made a reaching catch, they cheered. When Mike Tolbert broke free, they cheered.

   When Olindo Mare clanked one field goal attempt off an upright, they booed. Proves there's work to be done.

  Head coach Ron Rivera sounded happy after the first full practice, though he admitted there were enough negatives to keep him and his team busy the next few days working through those.

  What was best?

  The enthusiasm. The Panthers showed it.

   Rivera liked the explosiveness of his running backs. Tight end Greg Olsen, without Jeremy Shockey getting half of his passes, kept pulling in nice receptions. Jimmy Clausen earned Rivera's praise for his downfield throws.

   Jon Beason looked comfortable being back out there. Rookie Luke Kuechly looked like he's been there for years. Sharrod Martin had a nice early interception, one of four the defense made.

   Not every practice will have a big crowd in Gibbs Stadium. The rest of the work will be done on nearby practice fields in front of significantly smaller crowds in the evening.

   But it was the kind of night where a thunderstorm loomed on the horizon only to slip away, not raining on an evening that created its own bit of sunshine. -- Ron Green Jr.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 28, 2012 at 09:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Ryan Kalil talks about Super Bowl promise, Cam Newton

SPARTANBURG

When Panthers center Ryan Kalil stepped in front of a bank of microphones and tape recorders Saturday, this was the first question posed to him:

“So, anything been going on with you?”

“Not too much,” Kalil said and smiled.

It's been three days since Kalil took out a full-page ad in the Charlotte Observer promising fans their loyalty would be rewarded with a Super Bowl title this season.

“I knew I'd take some heat for it, and rightfully so. It's a bold thing to say, especially in such a tough game,” Kalil said. “But what I care about is who I wrote it for and who it was intended for, and that was the fans and my teammates. So in that regard it's been very positive.”

Actually, most of the public response to Kalil's 178-word message has been positive. And while Kalil said he didn't intend the ad to be a Super Bowl guarantee, the three-time Pro Bowler believes the Panthers have the talent and drive to make it happen.

Kalil has been encouraged to see quarterback Cam Newton taking on more of a leadership role during the offseason. Newton was the Rookie of the Year in 2011 and broke Peyton Manning's rookie passing record, but Kalil and offensive tackle Jordan Gross talked to him midway through the season about his leadership abilities.

“You see him in the (TV) commercials and all that kind of stuff and it's easy to think he's just enjoying the offseason. But that's not the case at all,” Kalil said. “He's really committed to having a better season, being a better quarterback and being a better teammate and leader. And guys see that.”

“He doesn't do it for show,” Kalil added. “He does it because it means something to him, and it's personal this season. That's the thing we get excited about, and that's the thing that's going to make him a better quarterback”

--Joseph Person

 

Posted by Observer Sports on July 28, 2012 at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 27, 2012

Rivera pleased with Panthers overall conditioning

   Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said he's happy with the overall conditioning of his team as it gathered Friday for the start of training camp.

   The Panthers were put through conditioning drills outside Friday afternoon before a thunderstorm came through the Spartanburg, S.C., area. Rivera said he's seen most of the players at some point during the offseason and appreciated those who worked out at the stadium at times.

   After determining each player's level of conditioning, Rivera said the team will work to gradually raise the conditioning level for players who aren't where they should be.

  "We're not doing 16 110s or we're not doing 10 40s or something like that," Rivera said. "We're trying to gauge where they are through different things, whether it be straight-line running or cutting and stuff like that.

   "What we don't want to do is kill them and ruin them for the next four or five days. We want to be able to gauge it and say this guy is not at the level he needs to be. Okay, we'll do some extra stuff with him. Or these guys are exactly where they need to be.

   "My philosophy is not to kill a guy and have him useless the next three or four days or…say he's not in shape, every morning at six o'clock…We're not going to do that. We're going to find out exactly where everybody is and we'll put them through some sort of program that will get these guys ready to go. But we are not going to lose time by having guys get hurt or be mentally exhausted. It leaves you helpless."

-- Ron Green Jr.

 

 

Posted by Observer Sports on July 27, 2012 at 04:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

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