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August 30, 2014

Panthers' list of final cuts

The Panthers released their 53-man roster just minutes after Saturday's 4 p.m. deadline.

Safety Robert Lester, receiver Tavarres King, guard Chris Scott and cornerback Josh Thomas headlined the group of players released.

The other players cut are listed here: CB Carrington Byndom, G Derek Dennis, CB James Dockery, LB Adarius Glanton, WR Marcus Lucas, T Andrew McDonald, S Tom Nelson, DT Drake Nevis, RB Darrin Reaves, DT Micanor Regis, LB D.J. Smith, DT Casey Walker, FB Mike Zordich, T Kevin Hughes, TE Mike McNeill and S Anderson Russell. 

Hughes was waived/injured. McNeill (knee) and Zordich (knee) were waived after reaching an injury settlement. 

Canadian tackle David Foucault and undrafted free agent guard Andrew Norwell made the team. According to a league source, the Panthers had planned to cut Foucault and put him on their practice squad, but there was a fear he would be claimed off waivers by another team in the 24-hour window and they would lose out on the tackle. LB Ben Jacobs won out the final linebacker spot over Smith and Allen.

The Panthers keep four safeties in Roman Harper, Thomas DeCoud, Tre Boston and Colin Jones, and Charles Godfrey can be the emergency fifth safety after cutting Lester and Russell.

Carolina likes what it's seen from veteran guard Fernando Velasco, and the team also feels confident rookie guard Trai Turner will be healthy for the season opener against Tampa Bay. Those factors led to Scott's cut despite Scott getting the start at right guard Thursday at Pittsburgh.

Thomas, a fourth-year cornerback, started in six games for the Panthers last year. Thomas, who didn't make many plays this preseason, was squeezed out by Godfrey's conversion to cornerback and the addition of Bene' Benwikere.

DE Frank Alexander does not count against the 53-man roster due to his four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Should the Panthers add him to the roster after Week 4, they'll have to make a corresponding move.

Carolina will add 10 players to its practice squad, and some of them are likely to come from this group of recent cuts. 

--Joseph Person and Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on August 30, 2014 at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (43)

Panthers cut WR Tavarres King

The Panthers have cut second-year wide receiver Tavarres King, according to a league source.

Carolina claimed King off waivers from Denver last October, and he remained on the active roster the rest of the season.

Cornerback James Dockery tweeted that he's also been cut.

After general manager overhauled the receiving corps during the offseason, King and Marvin McNutt were the only receivers left from last year's active roster. Both are now gone: McNutt was part of the Panthers' first round of cuts this week.

King's departure would seem to signal that former Wofford WR Brenton Bersin and undrafted rookie WR/PR Philly Brown have made the team, unless Gettleman has targeted a free agent.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on August 30, 2014 at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

August 28, 2014

Derek Anderson traveling to Pittsburgh after birth of daughter

You’ll have to excuse Derek Anderson if he’s a little groggy in tonight’s exhibition.

The 10-year veteran quarterback didn’t get much sleep Wednesday night after his wife, Mallory, birthed their first child. But it appears Anderson will play against the Steelers on Thursday night.


Ameila Anderson was born to Derek and Mallory Wednesday at 7.6 lbs. and 20.5 inches long, Derek tweeted Wednesday night. He said Mallory was “doing great.”

Whether Anderson would play in the exhibition had been a question for a week. Mallory was due the day after last week’s exhibition at New England, so there was the possibility Anderson would miss the Patriots game.

But Ameila wasn’t ready to have the world welcome her just yet. Anderson missed Wednesday’s walk-through practice and did not board the team plane Wednesday afternoon.

Apparently Anderson is flying a U.S. Airways flight out of Charlotte Thursday afternoon to join the team in Pittsburgh. He’s slated to start the night with Joe Webb taking over the second- and third-team offenses.

Starting quarterback Cam Newton is with the team in Pittsburgh but will not play due to a cracked rib. The team will re-evaluate Newton on Saturday. No. 4 quarterback Matt Blanchard was placed on the injured reserve this week after suffering a concussion against the Patriots.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on August 28, 2014 at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

August 27, 2014

Newton: "No doubt" he'll play Week 1 vs. Bucs

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has no doubt that he'll play in the season opener Sept. 7 at Tampa Bay.

Newton, who cracked his ribs last week against New England, left little question about his Week 1 status while talking with reporters Wednesday for the first time since he was injured.

"There's no doubt in my mind," Newton said. "I'm just going to worry about things that I can control. I'm going to continue to come in and get as much treatment as possible so my body will be 100 percent."

The Panthers play their final exhibition Thursday night at Pittsburgh. Newton will make the trip with the team so he can continue working with head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion.

Newton indicated he sustained hairline fractures in multiple ribs when he was kneed in the lower back by Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins at the end of a 7-yard scramble during the second quarter. After leaving for one play, Newton returned to the game and played into the third quarter.

But an MRI on Sunday morning revealed the fracture.

Newton did not slide on the scramble, but rolled into Collins, whose knee struck Newton in a crease in his flak jacket.

Newton, who underwent offseason surgery on his left ankle, was noncommittal when asked whether he planned to slide more often when he takes off running from the pocket.

"I guess we will all just have to stay tuned and see," Newton said.

Newton put on his shoulder pads for the first time during Wednesday's practice -- "a superstitious thing more than anything."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera did not say when he thought Newton would return to practice, but shared Newton's confidence that he will be ready to play against Tampa Bay on Sept. 7.

"Nothing's different than the obvious that I hurt the rib section of my body. The pads (flak jacket) that I've had have been nicked to a degree," Newton said. "But nothing to the extent that will change my playing style or make me uncomfortable."

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on August 27, 2014 at 12:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

August 25, 2014

Where have all the 2011 draft picks gone?

And then there was one.

Cam Newton is the lone remaining member from the Panthers’ 2011 draft class after Carolina released receiver Kealoha Pilares this weekend.

Marty Hurney was fired in part because of big running back contracts and less-than-successful mid- to late-round draft picks in the final few years. Outside of Newton, there’s no question the 2011 draft was the least fruitful for the Panthers in recent memory.

The Broncos were next in the draft order behind the Panthers and took linebacker Von Miller at No. 2. Last night, the Denver Post’s Andrew Mason tweeted this

Where are they now?

Round 1, pick 1: QB Cam Newton. The franchise quarterback and two-time Pro Bowler, Newton was a home run. But lest we forget, many did not believe Newton should be the No. 1 pick at the time, and Hurney & Co. deserve credit for pulling the trigger on what now is the obvious call.

Round 3, pick 65: DT Terrell McClain. He had 12 starts and one sack in his rookie season before a season-ending knee injury. McClain didn’t put together a good training camp in 2012, and when the Panthers wanted Dwan Edwards before the start of the season, they released the former third-rounder. He rebounded in 2013 with appearances in all 16 games for the Texans, and he was playing well in the Cowboys’ summer workouts before injuring his ankle earlier this month.

Round 3, pick 97: DT Sione Fua. Fua was an average defensive tackle for the first two years, but he got squeezed out of his position when the Panthers drafted Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short last year. They tried to flip him to offensive line, and that worked all of one practice before he was cut. He’s now a backup lineman for the Broncos.

Round 4, pick 98: CB Brandon Hogan. The Panthers liked Hogan coming out of West Virginia even though he tore his ACL in the final game of the regular season. He eventually saw the field for the final three games of his rookie season but his knee never got healthy. Carolina put him on the IR to start the 2012 season and eventually waived him a few months later. This spring he signed to play in the Canadian Football League.

Round 5, pick 132: WR Kealoha Pilares. Pilares showed his potential when he set a franchise record with a 101-yard kick return against the Lions in his rookie season. The next year he caught his first receiving touchdown on a screen against Atlanta, but he injured his shoulder midway through the season at sat out. In 2013 he tore his ACL and was placed on IR. He came back this preseason healthy, but his flashes were just that. Feeling they had seen his ceiling, the Panthers released Pilares this weekend and he’s currently a free agent.

Round 6, pick 166: LB Lawrence Wilson. The Panthers placed Wilson on the practice squad after the 2011 preseason but he didn’t stay there long. In November 2011, Wilson was arrested for marijuana possession and was cut from the team. He’s bounced around a number of practice squads and Canada, and he’s currently trying to survive the first round of cuts with the St. Louis Rams.

Round pick, pick 203: C Zach Williams. He tore his ACL in training camp his rookie season and would only play one game for the Panthers in his career. He tore his other ACL in 2012. He failed a physical in May 2013 and the Panthers waived him. Williams’ most recent football sighting was with the Arena Football League’s Orlando Predators this year.

Round 7, pick 244: T Lee Ziemba. The Panthers used their final pick on an All-American that Newton was familiar with after their time at Auburn. He played six games for the Panthers—primarily on special teams—his rookie season. He tore his ACL in 2012, and later he was suspended for four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The Panthers eventually cut Ziemba, and he signed with the Colts in 2013. They cut him before the start of last season and according to his Twitter account he is out of football and now a sales representative.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on August 25, 2014 at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

August 24, 2014

Underwood and Pilares headline 10 Panthers cuts

The Panthers aren't waiting until Tuesday's deadline to cut their roster from 90 to 75 players. Receivers Tiquan Underwood and Kealoha Pilares were among the 10 players who got their walking papers Sunday.

For Underwood, it's the ninth time he's been released in his NFL career. Pilares' release means Cam Newton is the lone survivor from the 2011 draft class for the Panthers.

Underwood came to the Panthers in the offseason on a one-year deal with the hope of replacing Ted Ginn Jr. as the No. 3 receiver and kick returner. Though slightly undersized, Underwood has top-end speed.

The Panthers gave Underwood ample opportunity to earn the job, but he never played consistently. In practice he had a number of drops. Through three exhibitions, Underwood had one catch for 5 yards. He did not register a punt or kick return.

Joining Underwood and Pilares on the outs are fellow receivers Marvin McNutt and Toney Clemons. McNutt did little since being active for the regular-season finale last year. Clemons had an uphill climb to make the roster and never flashed enough to move up the depth chart.

Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant are locks to make the team. Brenton Bersin sits comfortably as the No. 4 receiver while Tavarres King and Philly Brown battle for the final spot(s).

Along with the four receivers, P Jordan Gay, DT Linden Gaydosh, DE Alex Hall, T Oscar Johnson, DE Craig Roh and LB Anthony Morales were also released.

The Panthers now have 79 players on the roster. The team must cut the roster to 75 by 4 p.m. Tuesday, and the 53-man roster must be decided by 4 p.m. on Aug. 30.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on August 24, 2014 at 01:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (40)

August 20, 2014

Cam Newton to play first half vs. Patriots

Panthers coach Ron Rivera plans to play Cam Newton and the rest of his starters for the first half of Friday's exhibition at New England.

Newton played five series in Sunday's win against Kansas City in his first action since March surgery to tighten the ligaments in his left ankle. Newton led the Panthers to touchdowns on his final two series before giving way to backup Derek Anderson late in the second quarter.

Rivera said the hope is to keep Newton in for the entire first half against the Patriots, as long as there are no setbacks with the ankle.

"They're still going to get some good reps, some quality reps," Rivera said Wednesday. "I hope we can get a two-minute drill at the end of the first half with that bunch, as well."

The Panthers could be without the starting right side of their offensive line at New England. Right tackle Nate Chandler is out with swelling in his knee, while guard Trai Turner has missed the past two days of practice with a groin injury.

Rivera said Turner would be re-evaluated Friday.

Veteran Garry Williams will replace Chandler. Chris Scott, who started eight games at right guard last year, would step in for Turner, the rookie from LSU.

Other injury notes:

--Rookie free safety Tre Boston returned to practice, but worked mostly on the side. Boston had missed all but one of the previous preseason practices after aggravating a sports hernia.

--Outside linebacker Chase Blackburn remains sidelined with a back injury, but Rivera said surgery has not been discussed.

--Starting cornerback Melvin White was held out after his back stiffened up Wednesday morning.

--Backup offensive lineman Andrew McDonald left the two-hour practice early with apparent heat-related symptoms.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on August 20, 2014 at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

August 19, 2014

Panthers trade Barner to Philly for 7th-round pick

The Panthers traded running back Kenjon Barner to the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday, reuniting the second-year back with Chip Kelly, Barner's coach at Oregon.

In exchange for Barner, Philadelphia sent the Panthers a conditional, seventh-round draft pick in 2015, the teams announced.

Barner, a sixth-round pick in 2013, failed to take advantage of increased reps at training camp this summer when Jonathan Stewart was sidelined with a hamstring injury and the team had limited DeAngelo Williams' reps.

Barner, who the Panthers hoped would win one of the kick return jobs, was eclipsed by running back Fozzy Whittaker as the No. 3 back after Whittaker's strong showing in Sunday night's exhibition win against Kansas City.

Whittaker rushed 13 times for a game-high 71 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs, while Barner gained 18 yards on seven carries. Whittaker ran hard and hit the holes with authority, which Barner had not done all summer.

In two exhibition games, Barner carried 15 times for 26 yards and failed to gain a yard on two punt returns. His only highlight was a 31-yard kickoff return against the Chiefs, but he hadn't done enough to justify a spot on the 53-man roster.

As a rookie, Barner played in eight games, rushing for 7 yards on six carries and catching two passes for 7 yards.

But Barner will get a fresh start with Kelly, who took over for Andy Reid in Philly before the 2013 season.

“Kenjon will hopefully bring some depth to both our running back and return positions. He’s obviously a guy I know really well from Oregon, where he had a very productive career," Kelly said in a release. "He has a lot of speed, explosiveness and had a knack for making some really big plays. But our plan with him right now is get him in Philadelphia as soon as we can and plug him in at running back and returner and let him compete.”

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on August 19, 2014 at 10:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

August 15, 2014

Steve Smith likes the Ravens for 'bully' mentality

By now, you all know the story of Steve Smith.

He's mercurial. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He's fought teammates. 

In an interview with CSN Baltimore, Smith recently detailed exactly why he likes being a member of the Baltimore Ravens and how he would go about bullying someone.


It's an entertaining clip, and it's vintage Smith. His spork deadpan would be a top-10 quote if he didn't already have a full list of top-10 quotes from his 13-year career that include this and this from last year.

In his first exhibition with the Ravens, Smith had one catch for 9 yards against the 49ers. He also spun the ball after the catch.

Despite being released by the Panthers, in part due to the type of behavior and mentality seen above, Smith remains a sports hero in Charlotte.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on August 15, 2014 at 01:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

August 14, 2014

Rivera: Newton will play at least first quarter vs. Chiefs

The setting might have changed for the Carolina Panthers, but questions about the health of quarterback Cam Newton's left ankle persist.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Newton would play at least the first quarter of Sunday night's nationally televised exhibition against Kansas City. Rivera has said previously Newton would not run the zone read against the Chiefs.

During Thursday's shorts-and-helmets practice, the Panthers' first in Charlotte since breaking camp at Wofford on Tuesday, Newton participated in every drill. He motioned for head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion early in the two-hour practice, although Newton later said the conversation was routine.

Newton, who had surgery to tighten the ligaments in his ankle in March, was held out of last week's exhibition opener against Buffalo.

Rivera said he doesn't want to play Newton too much against the Chiefs, fearful Newton might aggravate the injury while trying to do too much.

"We'll see," Rivera said when asked about Newton's playing time. "Right now the initial plan is to get him into the first quarter and then go from there."

Rivera said strong safety Roman Harper, who has missed two weeks with turf toe, would not play against the Chiefs. The status of defensive end Charles Johnson, who returned from a hamstring injury Thursday, is uncertain.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on August 14, 2014 at 04:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)