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January 31, 2013

Video: Harbaugh, Culliver discuss anti-gay remarks

San Francisco 49ers CB Chris Culliver said on Super Bowl XLVII Media Day that he would not welcome a gay teammate in his locker room. Jim Harbaugh and Chris Culliver discuss the remarks.

Posted by Observer staff on January 31, 2013 at 01:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Culliver says anti-gay comments not what's in his heart

NEW ORLEANS – San Francisco cornerback Chris Culliver apologized Thursday for anti-gay comments he made during a Media Day interview Tuesday with comedian Artie Lange.

Culliver, who went to high school at Raleigh and played at South Carolina, issued a statement Wednesday expressing regret for his remarks. On Thursday morning, he apologized repeatedly while facing a media scrum that was larger than those surrounding any player in the 49ers' team hotel.

“It's not what I felt. That's why I'm addressing the situation today,” Culliver said. “I support gay people, gay communities and different anything. I'm sorry that I made that comment, that I hurt anyone or made any comment that might affect them, the organization, the NFL, anything like that.”

Culliver said he has relatives who are gay, and that he “cleared it up” with them, as well.

“I talked to them about it. Some people contacted me. I just talked to them about it and moved on,” Culliver said. “They understand where I was coming from. That's why they called me directly. They heard from me.”

Culliver said he was “just kidding around” when he told Lange – in response to a question – that the 49ers did not have any gay players, and he wouldn't welcome a gay teammate in the locker room.

Niners coach Jim Harbaugh would not divulge his conversation with Culliver about the matter, but said he does not believe Culliver's remarks reflected his true feelings.

“There's not malice in his heart. He's not an ugly person. He's not a discriminatory person,” Harbaugh said. “I really believe that this is something that he'll learn and grow from.”

--Joseph Person


Posted by Observer Sports on January 31, 2013 at 11:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 30, 2013

Jacoby Jones was almost a Panther

NEW ORLEANS – Baltimore wideout Jacoby Jones almost didn't get a chance to enjoy his mother's gumbo this week.

Jones, a New Orleans native, visited Charlotte last spring on a free agent tour and was set to sign with the Panthers. But after his agent encouraged him to take his final visit to Baltimore, Jones signed with the Ravens and ended up in his hometown for his first Super Bowl.

Jones said he met with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski during his visit, and came away impressed.

It was great,” Jones said Wednesday. “I was like, 'Man, I'm leaning this way.'”

Jones said the Panthers' offer was similar to the two-year, $7 million deal he received from the Ravens, whose team unity was the deciding factor.

When I walked in the locker room, I was done. I was like, 'I'm signing,'” Jones said. “How these guys act to each other, it was like a family.”

Jones' 30 receptions were third most among the Ravens' wideouts, trailing Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. He averaged 30.7 yards a kick return – tops among players with at least 17 returns.

Jones said he would have been the Panthers' No. 3 wideout, but wasn't sure he would get to return both kicks and punts.

They were kind of decided of Brandon LaFell” as the second wideout, Jones said. “He played pretty well. They had a returner (Kealoha Pilares). And they had a guy (Joe Adams) they drafted. I was looking at that, too.”

With a Super Bowl trip that included his mother making 150 plates of Cajun food for the Ravens, Jones said he made the right choice.

The fun part is playing in the Super Bowl, period. A lot of great players and Hall of Famers haven’t made it to the Super Bowl,” Jones said. “But just playing in New Orleans, that puts the icing on the cake.”

--Joseph Person


Posted by Observer Sports on January 30, 2013 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 29, 2013

Video: Football Inside Out: Super Bowl XLVII

On Super Bowl Media Day, John Harbaugh addressed the SI report that claims Ray Lewis used a banned substance for a triceps injury. Jim Harbaugh lauded Lewis as one of the NFL's all-time best.

Posted by Charlotte Observer on January 29, 2013 at 10:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kalil has no regrets about Super Bowl prediction

NEW ORLEANS -- The Super Bowl is here this week.

Panthers center Ryan Kalil is not.

Kalil, you might remember, took out a full-page ad in the Observer in July predicting the Panthers would end their season in New Orleans, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

While the 49ers and Ravens participated in Media Day on Tuesday at the Superdome, Kalil was in Charlotte, rehabbing his surgically repaired foot. He later took a walk with his wife and their two daughters.

He figured he would be hearing from reporters.

“It didn't work out? What do you mean?” Kalil said jokingly. “The Super Bowl's this week?”

Kalil said he has no regrets about taking out the ad, which prompted Panthers coach Ron Rivera to distribute T-shirts to his players inscribed with the message, 'I have Ryan Kalil's back.'

And though it raised expectations for a team coming off a 6-10 season in Rivera's first year, Kalil does not see that as a bad thing.

“Look, I have no misconception about how hard it is to win in this league. But I'm not the kind of guy who can buy into managing expectations or rebuilding or timing,” he said. “Maybe I'm wrong, but that's just not how I feel.”

The Panthers won five of their final six games to finish 7-9 and buy Rivera at least one more season. But Kalil said the team needs to figure out how to win the close games that crippled them the first half of the season if they want to become a legitimate playoff contender.

As for taking out an ad next season, Kalil said he would “probably not” be helping out the newspaper industry in the future.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on January 29, 2013 at 04:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

January 28, 2013

Report: Former Panther safety Chris Harris gets coaching job with Bears

Chris Harris had been retired from the NFL for two days before he found a job as a coach.

The Chicago Tribune's Dan Pompei reported Monday afternoon that Harris has been hired as a defensive quality control coach with the Chicago Bears. 

Harris, an eight-year NFL veteran, was drafted in the sixth round by the Bears in 2005 when Panthers coach Ron Rivera was Chicago's defensive coordinator. He was traded to the Panthers before the 2007 season in exchange for a future fifth-round pick. That year, Harris forced a league-high eight fumbles, which still stands as a franchise record. 

He finished his three-year career with the Panthers with five interceptions before returning to the Bears in 2010.

Harris announced his retirement via Twitter on Saturday and was flooded with well wishes, including one from his former Panther teammate DeAngelo Williams.


He rejoins Chicago after Lovie Smith was fired in the offseason and was replaced with Marc Trestman. Trestman retained the defensive backs coach Jon Hoke, who was with Harris during his second stint with the Bears, and at defensive coordinator brought on Mel Tucker, who worked with Harris in his final stop in Jacksonville in 2012.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on January 28, 2013 at 03:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 25, 2013

Panthers hire Al Holcomb as linebackers coach

After a week of in-house promotions and familiar hirings, the Panthers have tabbed New York Giants defensive assistant Al Holcomb as the new linebackers coach, a source confirmed Friday evening.

Holcomb interviewed with the team on Thursday, and he's the third known candidate to have interviewed for the position vacated when Warren Belin was fired earlier this month. The hire was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Holcomb is the first Panthers' position coach hired in the past two weeks who did not have ties to the organization. The offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, special teams coordinator and receivers coach were all promoted from within the club. Jim Skipper, the team's former running backs coach, was brought back last week after being fired by the Titans.

Former Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and former Panthers linebacker coach Bill Davis were also interviewed for the job.

Holcomb has never been a position coach in the NFL. He was a low-level assistant for four seasons with the Giants, the organization with which new Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman spent a decade and a half.  

He inherits a linebacking corps that includes Jon Beason, Thomas Davis, James Anderson and Luke Kuechly, who led the league in tackles in the 2012 season. 

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on January 25, 2013 at 06:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

January 23, 2013

Could E.J. Manuel be a fit for Panthers?


At the Senior Bowl last year, the Panthers had an eye on former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson as a potential, late-round pick and backup to Cam Newton. Wilson went to Seattle in the third round, won the starting job and led the Seahawks to the playoffs.

With No. 2 QB Derek Anderson a free agent and hinting that he might return to Cleveland with fomer Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, the Panthers could be in the market for a backup. Florida State's E.J. Manuel, built like at Newton at 6-4 and 237 pounds, said Tuesday he believes he could run the Panthers' offense, including the zone-read.

“I see a lot of myself in Cam, as far as being able to run and throw the ball,” Manuel said after a Senior Bowl practice. “I think it would be a good fit.”

But like Wilson, Manuel is drawing attention from teams looking for a starter. He met Monday night with new Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly and a team of Eagles' coaches and scouts.

Manuel, projected to go in the fourth or fifth round, said he has yet to sit down with the Panthers.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on January 23, 2013 at 05:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

January 22, 2013

Panthers to hire Dorsey as QBs coach


The Panthers again are staying in-house to fill a coaching position.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera is expected to hire Ken Dorsey, one of the team's pro scouts, as his quarterbacks coach, a source with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday.

Dorsey, 31, joined the scouting department two years ago after working with former Panthers quarterback Chris Weinke at IMG Academy, where they trained Cam Newton during the lockout before Newton's rookie season.

Dorsey is the winningest quarterback in University of Miami history, posting a 38-2 record and leading the Hurricanes to the 2001 national title. Dorsey, drafted in the seventh round by San Francisco in 2003, was 2-11 as a starter with the 49ers and Cleveland. He also played with Toronto in the CFL in 2010.

The Panthers promoted three assistants last week – offensive coordinator Mike Shula, receivers coach Ricky Proehl and special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers. They also re-hired running backs coach Jim Skipper, who was on John Fox's Panthers' staff for nine years before spending the past two seasons with the Tennessee Titans.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on January 22, 2013 at 08:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Shula excited to be a coordinator again


During his final year as Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator in 1999, Mike Shula coached a pair of proven running backs in Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn and a rookie quarterback in Shaun King.

Despite finishing 28th in the league in total offense, the Bucs came within a game of the Super Bowl.

Fourteen years later, Shula is an offensive coordinator again after the Panthers promoted him last week. He inherits a veteran running back corps featuring DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert.

Instead of a rookie quarterback, Shula has a franchise quarterback – the same one he's worked with the past two seasons: Cam Newton.

“I'm excited because number one, our quarterback,” Shula said Tuesday following the first of two Senior Bowl practices. “And I'm excited because of the guys that we're coaching.”

Shula, 47, said his offense will resemble the one Rob Chudzinski ran for two years before becoming Cleveland's coach. But Shula, the former Alabama quarterback and head coach, wants to put his own stamp on it.

“I think we're going to try to keep all the good stuff,” Shula said, laughing. “There's going to be a lot that's going to look similar. But there's going to be other things that we'll continue to throw around in the offseason.”

Shula said he was proud of the way the players ended the season after a tough start. The Panthers won five of their last six games to finish 7-9 and in second place in the NFC South, enough to keep Ron Rivera in Charlotte another year and get Chudzinski hired in Cleveland.

Shula said the key is continuing to find new ways to utilize Newton, who enjoyed the best stretch of his two-year career over the second half of last season.

“Obviously, we want to make things as best we can to allow our quarterback to play fast. And I think he's playing faster,” Shula said. “I'm more excited about him now than I was this time last year.”

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on January 22, 2013 at 02:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)