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September 29, 2014

Panthers sign RB Chris Ogbonnaya

The Panthers didn't waste much time filling their need for a healthy running back.

Carolina signed free-agent running back Chris Ogbonnaya Monday night after cutting Tauren Poole, who was signed last week and fumbled in his first and only carry in Sunday's 38-10 loss to Baltimore.

Ogbonnaya, a fifth-year player, was released by the Browns just before the start of this season. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 draft out of Texas by the Rams. 

Ogbonnaya's most productive season came last year for the Browns. He rushed 49 times for 240 yards for an average of 4.9 yards per carry, and he caught 48 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown.

At 6-foot and 220 pounds, he has seen time at both fullback and tailback. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he was looking for a veteran running back who could help immediately in pass protection while also grasping the playbook quickly.

The Panthers have dealt with a rash of injuries in the backfield. Fullback Mike Tolbert can't return until at least mid-November with a fractured leg. Running back Jonathan Stewart is recovering from a knee sprain and may not be available this week. Running back DeAngelo Williams injured his foot against the Ravens and was in a walking boot Monday afternoon.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on September 29, 2014 at 07:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

DeAngelo Williams doubtful; Panthers looking at RBs

In what has become a weekly tradition at Bank of America Stadium, Panthers coach Ron Rivera began his Monday press conference addressing the latest injury to a running back.

Rivera said DeAngelo Williams will begin the week as doubtful after injuring his right foot in the first half of Sunday's 38-10 loss to Baltimore.

Williams joins three other running backs on the injury report, which also includes Jonathan Stewart (sprained right knee) and fullback Mike Tolbert, who is on the short-term IR until at least late-November with a hairline fracture in his left leg.

Stewart tried to practice last Friday, but did not look anywhere close to healthy. Rivera said he would be re-evaluated this week.

Rivera said the Panthers would likely bring in a veteran running back this week who could pick up the system quickly.

A couple of possibilities -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis and former Panther Kenjon Barner -- are both dealing with injuries.

"We're going to have to look at some guys from the outside. And we'll see," Rivera said. "Without Jonathan available last week and potentially not available this week we need to have an insurance policy just in case so we’re going to have to take a look."

After Williams left the Ravens' game in the first half, the Panthers were left with a pair of undrafted free agents at running back.

Rookie Darrin Reaves had 12 carries for 26 yards, while Tauren Poole fumbled on his first career carry.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on September 29, 2014 at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)

September 28, 2014

Davis, Stewart inactive for Panthers vs. Ravens

Veteran linebacker Thomas Davis and running back Jonathan Stewart are inactive for Carolina in Sunday's contest against the Ravens.

Davis has battled a hip injury since last week. He also injured his hamstring in the fourth quarter of last week's game against Pittsburgh. He practiced in a limited capacity Thursday and Friday but wasn't healthy enough to be active Sunday.

Chase Blackburn and A.J. Klein will flank middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.

Stewart was a long-shot to play. He suffered a knee sprain against the Steelers and didn't do nearly as much as Panthers coach Ron Rivera would have liked to see in Friday's practice.

Quarterback Joe Webb, safety Tre Boston, guard Andrew Norwell, tight end Brandon Williams and running back Fozzy Whittaker are also inactive for Carolina.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on September 28, 2014 at 11:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

September 24, 2014

Steve Smith: I'm still making plays

Dozens of Charlotte media members gathered in the Bank of America media room for Steve Smith’s teleconference from Baltimore.

Spoiler alert: He didn’t have any bulletin-board material to offer.

“Well, y’all are gonna make up something anyway so what’s the sense?,” Smith said.

In a 15-minute interview, Smith talked about how much he missed North Carolina, how he admits Sunday’s game against the Panthers isn’t just any other game and the biggest similarity and difference is between the two franchises.

“Similarities: 89’s making plays. Difference: I’m in Maryland,” Smith said.

This preseason, Smith talked about how the Ravens’ “bully mentality” fit him well. He expanded on those comments.

“That attitude fits me. I was told to be myself, so that’s what I’ve been. I’ve been myself. And I enjoy being myself. Everybody else is taken, so I just got to be myself,” Smith said. “And I enjoy being myself. I’m comfortable being in my skin. I am the person that God made me, and when I’m not on your team, other fans and other people don’t like me. but when I’m on your team, people enjoy me.”

Smith still comes to Charlotte frequently during the season. He was in town with his wife and children two weeks ago following Baltimore’s Thursday Night Football win against the Steelers, and he even came to Charlotte this past Sunday night after the Ravens’ win against the Browns.

“Thirteen years, I miss everything about Carolina,” Smith said. “I miss being at home. I miss my friends, guys that I’ve grown with and they’ve grown. Of course. But also understand it’s a business, and sometimes in business you’ve got to temporarily go somewhere else.

“I’ve said and I’ll continue to say it. I’ve appreciated the opportunity that Mr. Richardson to see the world, to change my family’s legacy as far as where I grew up from back home in L.A. and how we grew up. Carolina is my home and it’ll always be my home.”

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on September 24, 2014 at 03:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

September 23, 2014

Panthers' Tolbert to IR, can return in late-November

The Panthers placed fullback Mike Tolbert on injured reserve, with the designation to return Tuesday, meaning the Pro Bowler will be out a minimum of two months.

Tolbert has a hairline fracture in his left leg below his knee, but will not require surgery, according to a league source.

Teams may use the so-called "short-term" injured reserve only once during the season, and the designated player is not eligible to play for a minimum of eight weeks.

Tolbert, who went to the Pro Bowl last season after leading the Panthers with seven total touchdowns, can rejoin the active roster Nov. 18, which falls during the team's bye week. The Nov. 30 game at Minnesota would be the earliest game Tolbert could play.

Rather than sign a running back to fill Tolbert's roster spot, the Panthers re-signed linebacker D.J. Smith, who started the season on Carolina's practice squad before his Sept. 3 release.

The signing of Smith signals some concern over the health of veteran linebacker Thomas Davis, who left Sunday night's loss to Pittsburgh with an apparent left knee injury.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera would not specify Davis' injury Monday when meeting with reporters, other than to say it was not "catastrophic" and did not involve his right knee, which has undergone three ACL surgeries.

Tolbert is the latest injury to the Panthers' running backs. DeAngelo Williams missed the past two games with a hamstring issue, but is expected to practice this week, according to Rivera.

Jonathan Stewart, who missed about half the past two seasons with injuries, has a severely sprained right knee that has left his status for this week's game at Baltimore in doubt.

Fourth-string running back Fozzy Whittaker sat out the Steelers' game with a quad injury.

The Panthers also have two rookie running backs: Darin Reaves was activated from the practice squad last weekend, while Lache Seastrunk was recently added to the practice squad.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on September 23, 2014 at 12:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

September 22, 2014

Tolbert will miss Ravens game; Stewart and Davis also hurting

The Panthers' injury list is growing.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said fullback Mike Tolbert (stress fracture in his left leg) will miss the Week 4 matchup with Baltimore, while running back Jonathan Stewart (severely sprained right knee) and linebacker Thomas Davis won't practice until at least Friday.

Rivera didn't want to go into details about Davis' injury, but said it did not involve his thrice-repaired ACL in his right knee.

Stewart's injury is to the same knee that sidelined him for the final three regular-season games and the playoff game last season with a torn MCL.

The Panthers are without their top three running backs. DeAngelo Williams missed his second consecutive game Sunday against Pittsburgh with a hamstring issue, although Rivera said he hopes Williams can practice Wednesday.

Both Tolbert and Stewart were injured on tackles by former Panthers safety Mike Mitchell; Rivera said they were clean plays.

Fourth-string running back Fozzy Whittaker also is hurt, with a quad injury that kept him out of the loss to the Steelers.

The only healthy running backs are Darrin Reaves, who was activated from the practice squad last week, and Lache Seastrunk, who was signed to the practice squad last week.

Rivera indicated the Panthers would evaluate free agent options.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on September 22, 2014 at 01:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

September 21, 2014

DeAngelo Williams, Cotchery inactive vs. Steelers

The Panthers will be without DeAngelo Williams for a second straight game.

Williams is inactive for Sunday night's game against the Steelers. Williams has been battling a hamstring injury for 1 1/2 weeks, and the injury kept him out of last week's game against the Lions.

Williams is joined on the Panthers' inactive list by receiver Jerricho Cotchery. Cotchery injured his hamstring Thursday and was questionable entering the game against his former team.

Receiver Jason Avant is active after being questionable with a hamstring injury, as well.

Quarterback Joe Webb, safety Tre Boston, running back Fozzy Whittaker, offensive tackle David Foucault and guard Andrew Norwell are also inactive.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on September 21, 2014 at 07:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

September 19, 2014

DeAngelo Williams, Cotchery and Avant questionable for Sunday

Three key offensive players are questionable for Sunday's game against Pittsburgh.

Running back DeAngelo Williams practiced in a limited capacity for the first time in more than a week, but his hamstring is still nagging him. Panthers coach Ron Rivera is hopeful Williams will be able to play Sunday night after missing last week's game against the Lions.

Receiver Jerricho Cotchery did not participate in Friday's practice but stayed inside the facilities and ran in the indoor pool. Cotchery suffered a hamstring injury this week and was limited in Thursday's practice.

Fellow receiver Jason Avant is also questionable with a hamstring injury. He was limited for the third consecutive practice.

Running back Fozzy Whittaker is doubtful with a quad injury. He's unlikely to play. Rivera said he and the coaches will talk Saturday about moving a player from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. If the Panthers do that, it will be a running back (likely Darrin Reaves) or receiver (Stephen Hill or Marcus Lucas).

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on September 19, 2014 at 01:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

September 17, 2014

What is the NFL's exempt list?

The NFL world was reintroduced to the exempt list on Wednesday morning, but what exactly is it?

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been placed on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List, which is essentially paid leave. Now, the NFL is consulting with the Panthers about placing defensive end Greg Hardy on the same list.

Perhaps the most famous instance of the league using this list came in 2009 when Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick signed with the team after serving 21 months in federal prison for dog fighting.

Here’s an explainer on the exempt list according to the NFL Player Personnel manual, per NFL.com:

"The Exempt List is a special player status available to clubs only in unusual circumstances. The List includes those players who have been declared by the Commissioner to be temporarily exempt from counting within the Active List limit. Only the Commissioner has the authority to place a player on the Exempt List; clubs have no such authority, and no exemption, regardless of circumstances, is automatic. The Commissioner also has the authority to determine in advance whether a player's time on the Exempt List will be finite or will continue until the Commissioner deems the exemption should be lifted and the player returned to the Active List."

Only the commissioner can place players on the list, so technically the Panthers would not be placing Hardy on it. Also, Hardy has the option to accept or challenge his placement on the list. Peterson accepted being placed on the list while he resolves his legal matters.

If Hardy is placed on the list, he will still receive his salary of about $770,000 a week. He would not count against the Panthers' 53-man roster.

The list has been used a handful of times since Vick. In 2011, Bucs safety Tanard Jackson was placed on the list for a substance abuse ban. New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma was placed on it in 2012 after Bountygate. Bucs running back Jeff Demps was also placed on it in 2013, according to Deadspin.com.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on September 17, 2014 at 11:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (27)

September 16, 2014

WR King signed by Jaguars from practice squad

The Jaguars signed Tavarres King off the Panthers’ practice squad on Tuesday.

The Panthers claimed King off waivers from the Broncos in October. He was on the 53-man roster for 10 games last season but was inactive for all of them.

He was the odd man out in the receiving group when Carolina made final cuts last month, but he went unclaimed on the waiver wire and the Panthers stashed him on the practice squad.

King, a 6-foot-1 receiver from Georgia, was selected in the fifth round of the 2013 draft by Denver. He has yet to log a regular-season catch.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on September 16, 2014 at 02:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)