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October 30, 2013

Stewart expected to play vs. Falcons

Barring any setbacks, Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart will play Sunday against Atlanta in his first action in nearly a year.

Stewart, who had offseason surgeries on both ankles, practiced in full pads Wednesday for the first time since last November, and afterward pronounced himself good to go.

Asked whether Stewart likely would be activated before the Falcons' game, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said: "Yeah, he looked good."

Stewart has been on the physically unable to perform list since the preseason. He began practicing last week, but was never in the mix to play in the Thursday night game against Tampa Bay.

But Stewart said he's ready this week.

"It felt good going out there, hitting the field full-speed with some contact. And just running plays with contact," Stewart said.

"It's different from running sprints, pulling sleds, even just walkthrough practices, to full pads. Today was a good step. It was fun. Just good to be back out there in the huddle."

Stewart -- while pointing out he's not paid to be a trainer -- said he also expects backfield mate DeAngelo Williams to be on the field with him against the Falcons. Williams bruised his quad in the second half against the Bucs, but had a good day working out and conditioning Wednesday, according to Rivera.

As for Stewart, Rivera said: "He looked fast. Fresh legs."

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on October 30, 2013 at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

October 29, 2013

Browns sign Armanti Edwards

Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Armanti Edwards signed with the Cleveland Browns, where he’ll reunite with Rob Chudzinski, the Browns’ head coach and former Panthers offensive coordinator.

Edwards, a former Appalachian State quarterback and Carolina’s 2010 third-round pick, was released by the Panthers on Oct. 8 after seeing limited reps on offense and averaging 19.7 yards per kick return during his 39-game stint with the team.

Tuesday’s signing came after the Browns placed receiver Travis Benjamin on injured reserve after he tore his ACL in a loss to Kansas City on Sunday.

--Sergio Tovar


Armanti Edwards watches the Carolina Panthers battle the Chicago Bears during third quarter action at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Aug. 9. Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com


Posted by Observer staff on October 29, 2013 at 07:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

October 28, 2013

Mitchell says league is targeting him

A few days after the NFL fined him a fifth time this year, Mike Mitchell said he believes the league is targeting him and had some pointed words for commissioner Roger Goodell.

Another fine might be forthcoming for the Panthers' physical and outspoken free safety.

Mitchell was one of five players from St. Louis and Carolina who were fined for their roles in the fights and shoving matches during the second half of the Panthers' 30-15 victory on Oct. 20.

Mitchell, a former Oakland Raiders player in his first year with the Panthers, drew a $7,875 for taunting after a fourth-quarter hit on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, who sustained a season-ending knee injury on the play. Mitchell celebrated in front of the St. Louis bench, but said he didn't realize Bradford had been injured.

"I think there's a little bit of a targeting system they have. And I think I'm one of the guys they've been looking for," Mitchell said Monday. "I'm OK with that. The coaches and my teammates know who I am, know the type of player I am."

Mitchell said his five fines have totaled close to $45,000 -- money he said has gone "right in Roger's pocket."

--Joseph Person


Posted by Observer Sports on October 28, 2013 at 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

Cowher: Rivera has grown as a coach

A former head coach pointed to the Panthers' Ron Rivera as a coach who's benefited from being given time to develop.

And that former coach who praised Rivera on Sunday is the same one often mentioned by some head-in-the-clouds Panthers fans as a possible replacement for Rivera.

During a discussion on head coaches during CBS Sports' "The NFL Today" show, former Steelers coach Bill Cowher mentioned Rivera, along with the Jets' Rex Ryan, as coaches who have grown into their roles.

"I think other owners should look at coaches and see that they can grow on the job and still be good coaches, and give them time to experience the things they need to experience like Ron Rivera," Cowher said. "Because we fire coaches way too quickly in this business and don't give them a chance to grow as coaches."

Cowher's right about the trigger-happy nature of some owners. And Rivera readily agrees that he's learned a lot in his first head coaching job, most famously his shift in philosophy on fourth-down situations.

A three-game winning streak has put the Panthers (4-3) above .500 for the first time since 2008 and made them "relevant," in the words of Rivera and several of his players.

But if the Panthers fall apart during the second half of the season, Cowher's comments could be irrelevant come January.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on October 28, 2013 at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (40)

October 25, 2013

Johnson gets good news on injured groin

The early news on Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson's strained groin was good, head coach Ron Rivera said Friday.

Rivera said an MRI on Johnson's right groin was negative, but his status for next week's game against Atlanta remains uncertain.

"So far it's positive. A lot of things will depend on how sore he is the next couple days," Rivera said. "There is some swelling. But the key will be how he reacts to the treatment he gets the next few days."

Rivera gave players the weekend off, but Johnson will be required to stay in Charlotte for treatment.

Johnson, who leads the team with six sacks, was injured with 1:08 remaining in the Panthers' 31-13 victory at Tampa Bay on Thursday.

The Panthers also will monitor running back DeAngelo Williams, who sustained a bruised quad in the second half against the Bucs. Rivera said he thinks Williams will be able to play against Atlanta.

Johnson, a Georgia native, said after the game he expects to play against the Falcons.

"The Atlanta game is a very personal game for him," Rivera said. "Knowing him he will do everything he can because he loves playing Atlanta."

Johnson has led the Panthers in sacks every season since 2010 after Julius Peppers signed with the Bears.

Rivera said he wasn't sure whether the loose turf at Raymond James Stadium contributed to Johnson's injury.

"I did see a lot of dirt flying up, and that's usually not a good sign," Rivera said. "That means a lot of guys were slipping and we had quite a few missed tackles because of it."

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on October 25, 2013 at 02:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

October 24, 2013

Thomas inactive, White to start at CB

Five days after he was benched during the second half of a win against St. Louis, Panthers cornerback Josh Thomas was inactive for Thursday's game at Tampa Bay.

Thomas missed Tuesday's practice with an illness, but he practiced Wednesday and was listed as probable.

Undrafted rookie Melvin White is expected to get his first career start in place of Thomas, who gave up two deep passes against the Rams -- one of which was negated by a penalty.

Thomas also was beaten deep twice in a Week 1 loss to Seattle, including on Russell Wilson's game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

Second-year corner Josh Norman is active for the first time since a Week 3 victory against the Giants, when he played mostly special teams. Norman has been in the doghouse since he blew a coverage on the game-winning touchdown in Week 2 at Buffalo.

The Panthers' other inactives included defensive tackles Sione Fua and Dwan Edwards, running back Armond Smith, tight end Brandon Williams, and young wideouts Marvin McNutt and Tavarres King.

As expected, Bucs leading rusher Doug Martin is inactive with a torn labrum.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on October 24, 2013 at 07:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

October 23, 2013

Dwan Edwards out vs. Bucs; Stewart shooting for Falcons game

Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart will make the trip to Tampa Bay, but will not play Thursday night against the Buccaneers.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Stewart has looked good since returning to practice this week, and the goal is to have him ready to play against Atlanta on Nov. 3.

Stewart has been on the physically unable to perform list since the preseason following offseason surgeries on both ankles. His right ankle is the one that has most bothered Stewart.

In other injury news, defensive tackle Dwan Edwards will miss his fifth consecutive game with a hamstring injury, Rivera said.

Pro Bowl wideout Steve Smith was a new addition to the Panthers' injury report after having his ankle stepped on during Wednesday's practice. But Rivera said Smith would play against the Bucs.

Special teams contributor and backup safety Colin Jones missed his second consecutive practice to attend to personal matters, but Rivera said he would be available for Thursday's game.

In a personnel note, Rivera said he has not decided who will start at the cornerback spot opposite Captain Munnerlyn. But based on his comments, it sounds likely undrafted rookie Melvin White will replace Josh Thomas, who was beaten deep twice last week against St. Louis.

--Joseph Person


Posted by Observer Sports on October 23, 2013 at 12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

October 22, 2013

Stewart returns to practice, likely won't play Thursday

Jonathan Stewart’s long-awaited return to practice got a mocking standing ovation from his teammates and coaches on Tuesday.

The Panthers running back practiced for the first time in nearly a year on Tuesday and he said it was good to be back on the field.

“The process of something like offseason surgery that I had, the expectation was it would be something quick and easy and get back to what I’d been doing,” said Stewart, who has been battling a sore right ankle since surgery. “But then it turned into this long process. I’ve learned a lot about
myself, what I can endure and a lot of things about my love of the game and being around people like this.”

Stewart and coach Ron Rivera wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Stewart playing Thursday at Tampa Bay, but Rivera said it was likely Stewart wouldn’t see the field until the Week 9 contest against Atlanta, keeping with the timetable set last week.

“He looked really good,” Rivera said. “He moved around well and it was very good to see him out there. We’re excited. We’ll see how he reacts tomorrow morning to the workout today and see how it goes. We’ll really get a good look at him and work him out the next few days.”

But don’t look for Stewart to automatically re-claim his starting role when he returns to action. The Panthers promoted Stewart to the starting spot after five games last season, where he stayed until injuring his ankle against Philadelphia in November.

DeAngelo Williams is 11th in the NFL with 434 rushing yards this season, and Rivera said Williams has earned the right to keep the starting role.

"Weve got a guy right now that has established himself as our premiere back," Rivera said. "DeAngelo has earned that right to continue to be that guy and he will continue to be that guy."

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on October 22, 2013 at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

October 21, 2013

Panthers claim King, cut Moore

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman continues to churn the bottom of the 53-man roster, claiming rookie wideout Tavarres King off waivers from the Broncos, the team announced Monday.

To make room for King, the Panthers terminated the contract of cornerback D.J. Moore, who has been sidelined for more than a month with a sprained knee.

Moore, a native of Spartanburg, signed a one-year deal worth $715,000 with the Panthers during the offseason after spending his first four seasons with the Bears.

King, a fifth-round pick from Georgia, had five catches for 64 yards for the Broncos during the preseason, but had not played during the regular season.

King, 6-feet and 191 pounds, played in a school-record 56 games at Georgia, finishing third on the school's career list in receiving touchdowns (21) and fourth in receiving yards (2,602).

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on October 21, 2013 at 04:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

October 20, 2013

Steve Smith has choice words for Rams CB Janoris Jenkins

Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith had some choice words for St. Louis cornerback Janoris Jenkins following Carolina's 30-15 win.

Smith caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton with 19 seconds left in the third quarter. Jenkins, a second-year player, was one of the Rams that Smith made miss on his way to the end zone.

Smith got into the end zone, pointed to Jenkins, started doing former NFL cornerback Deion Sanders' celebration dance and then signaled to stop. He then proceeded to do his own celebration dance.

Below is the transcript from Smith's post-game interview:

Take us through the touchdown, looks like you made some guys missed. "I’ll let Janoris Jenkins go over it on film on Monday."

Did you point to him? "Yes, I directly pointed to him."

Did you think you’d get a taunting penalty? "Don’t give a damn."

What was the dance you did? "Well he thinks he’s Deion (Sanders). He’s not."

To get your 800th catch against him… "He’s just another notch on the bedpost. That’s 800. He ain’t no different."

For your 800th to be a touchdown, what’s that mean to you? "Just another dude."

Did you have any run-ins with him before? "No. What I don’t like is a young guy, comes in, obviously his first time ever using the internet and Google, and he Googles information about me, talks about my wife and stuff like that. That’s kind of some of the (B.S). I just don’t play with."

What specifically was he saying? "That’s all I’m going to say. I don’t play them games. When you try to take it personal like that, I don’t have any great humbling things to say. So he can take his (butt) back to St. Louis and watch the (expletive) film because I don’t play them games. And if I see him in the streets I’m going to bust him in his (expletive) mouth.

On your touchdown celebration, was that a little bit extra? "When you embarrass people you rub it in their face. When your dog (urinates) on the carpet, you rub it in his face."

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on October 20, 2013 at 05:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (31)