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December 31, 2014

Limited number of tickets remain for playoff game

The Arizona Cardinals returned "a couple hundred" tickets for Saturday's playoff game, Panthers chief revenue officer Phil Youtsey said Wednesday afternoon.

The tickets are available for purchase on the Panthers' Ticketmaster site at face value. The tickets are mostly in the upper level.

The Panthers sold single-game tickets an hour after their 34-3 win at Atlanta to clinch a playoff berth. Those 7,200 tickets sold out in about 15 minutes, Youtsey said.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on December 31, 2014 at 03:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

FOX Sports: Reasons the Panthers could win it all

The records are wiped clean in the playoffs, and FOX Sports writer Alex Marvez gave three reasons why every team could win the Super Bowl.

The Panthers are the No. 4 seed and host the Cardinals on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium. Marvez said Carolina would run the table due to the respect factor, physical play and having no fear of playing at Seattle.

Marvez said teams respect the Panthers no matter their regular season record because of their four-game winning streak.

“Opposing head coaches should worry about their players taking the Panthers lightly simply because of their record,” Marvez writes. “That would be a big mistake. Just ask the 2010 New Orleans Saints, who lost in the first round against a division champion (Seattle) that entered the postseason with an even worse mark than Carolina.”

For more on the Panthers, and Marvez’ reasons on the other 11 teams in the playoffs, click here.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on December 31, 2014 at 02:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

December 30, 2014

Rivera still coy about Williams' role in RB rotation

Ron Rivera is at it again.

While Arizona coach Bruce Arians told Charlotte reporters Tuesday the Cardinals are preparing to start Ryan Lindley at quarterback in Sunday's wild-card game, Rivera refused to definitively name Jonathan Stewart the Panthers' starter at running back.

Rivera was coy about the running back rotation before the Week 17 win at Atlanta, as well. DeAngelo Williams was listed as probable, but was held out for the fourth straight game with a broken bone in his right hand.

Stewart has rushed for 486 yards over the past five games, beginning with the Nov. 30 loss at Minnesota when Williams was hurt. Rivera said he didn't want Williams to aggravate the injury against the Falcons last week.

"I decided we're in a good spot right now," Rivera said. "We've got guys that are 100 percent healthy, and why expose an injury that's something as simple as a nick that could turn into something worse?"

Williams played in only six regular-season games, while a healthy Stewart had his best season since 2009.

But Rivera said he's not worried about disrupting the offensive chemistry by working Williams back in the rotation.

"No, he's part of our chemistry," Rivera said.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on December 30, 2014 at 03:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Cardinals-Panthers broadcast on ESPN nationally, WJZY locally

Carolina's wild-card playoff game against Arizona will be aired locally on WJZY FOX 46, the station announced Tuedsday.

ESPN is carrying the game both locally and nationally, but those in Charlotte without cable can view the game on simulcast on WJZY. 

The game kicks off at 4:35 p.m. Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden will have the call for ESPN with Lisa Salters as the sideline reporter.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on December 30, 2014 at 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

With Stanton day-to-day, Cardinals planning for QB Lindley to start

With quarterback Drew Stanton day-to-day as he recovers from an infection, the Arizona Cardinals are preparing for Ryan Lindley to start in his third straight game Saturday against the Panthers in the playoffs.

Lindley, who signed with the team after Carson Palmer went to IR, has been thrust into the starter's role after Stanton suffered a knee injury and, later, an infection.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told Charlotte reporters Tuesday that Lindley will take the first-team reps at practice Tuesday.

“I was kidding with our guys out here the other day and I said I asked Santa Claus for a crystal ball but the son of a gun wouldn’t give me one,” Arians said on a teleconference. “So we still don’t know. It’ll be a day-to-day thing, and right now we’re planning as if Ryan will be our starter.”

Arians said he and his coaching staff won’t make a determination on Stanton until Friday after the Cardinals arrive in Charlotte.

Arians added that rookie quarterback Logan Thomas is firmly the backup with a package of plays suited for his run-pass abilities and his arm strength.

In his past two starts, Lindley completed less than 50 percent of his passes for 532 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. The Cardinals dropped consecutive games to Seattle and San Francisco to close the season.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on December 30, 2014 at 10:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 28, 2014

DeAngelo Williams inactive vs. Falcons

Despite being listed as probable for Sunday's game at Atlanta, Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams is inactive for the game against the Falcons.

Williams has been dealing with a broken bone in his right hand since getting injured against the Vikings four weeks ago. He has been practicing with a cast on his right hand, but the issue has been how well he can pass block.

Williams didn't do enough late in the week to satisfy Panthers coaches that he would not be a liability in the backfield for blitz pickup and pass protection.

Running back Jonathan Stewart, whose 437 rushing yards the past four games are the most in the NFL in that span, will get the start.

Cornerback James Dockery, safety Robert Lester, linebacker A.J. Klein (ankle), defensive tackle Kyle Love, tackle David Foucault and guard Amini Silatolu are also inactive for Carolina.

--Jonathan Jones 

Posted by Observer Sports on December 28, 2014 at 02:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

December 19, 2014

Panthers head of PR Dayton takes new job, assistant Drummond promoted

Long-time Panthers communications director Charlie Dayton will take a new post starting Jan. 1 and assistant Steven Drummond will assume the director position for the team’s public relations.

Dayton, who’s been with the team for 20 years, will become the team’s director of historical and alumni affairs. Dayton will oversee any records and archives, as well as coordinate alumni relations and initiatives with former players.

“My deep appreciation goes to Mr. Richardson for allowing me to serve our great franchise through all of these years and this opportunity going forward,” Dayton wrote in an email to reporters who cover the team daily.

Drummond, who graduated from South Carolina in 2001, has been with the Panthers for more than nine years. He’s been the assistant director of communications since 2011. 

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on December 19, 2014 at 06:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

Rivera 'very confident' Newton will start vs. Browns

The Carolina Panthers put Cam Newton through several physical tests during Friday's practice, and the Pro Bowl quarterback gave the team no reason to think he won't be ready for Sunday's game against Cleveland.

Newton is officially listed as probable, but Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he's "very confident" in Newton's ability to start a game with major playoff implications for the Panthers.

"He did a lot of turning and twisting today. We put a lot of pressure on it," Rivera said. "We had him do some things on purpose, and he seemed to be right on track. He's had no ill effects every morning."

Newton missed last week's win against Tampa Bay after sustaining two fractures in his lower back during a two-car accident Dec. 9 in uptown Charlotte. It was the second game he's missed this season after sitting out the season opener at Tampa with cracked ribs.

But Newton practiced all week, taking the snaps with the first-team offense Thursday and Friday.

"We're pointed in the right direction," Rivera said. "Good things have happened. He's done a lot of positive things."

Newton will continue to use the flak jacket he's worn since cracking his ribs during an August exhibition at New England. Rivera said the training staff believes the flak jacket will protect the lower-back injury Newton sustained in the car wreck.

In other injury news, running back DeAngelo Williams (broken bone in right hand) is listed as questionable, but likely will be used as an emergency back, Rivera said.

Williams has missed the past two games and is still experiencing discomfort in the hand.

"He's still uncomfortable," Rivera said. "We don't want to put him in a situation where he takes a shot and he's done."

Outside linebacker A.J. Klein also is questionable with an ankle injury.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on December 19, 2014 at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Panthers can help NFC South avoid another dubious distinction

The Panthers need help from Atlanta or Tampa Bay if they are to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.

But with a win Sunday against Cleveland, the Panthers can help their NFC South rivals avoid the distinction of finishing with the worst out-of-division record since the NFL realigned in 2002.

Through 15 weeks, NFC South teams have combined for a 9-28-1 record in non-division games. Since the league went to eight, four-team divisions 12 years ago, the 2008 NFC West has the worst out-of-division mark at 10-30.

The Arizona Cardinals won the West with a 9-7 record that season, and advanced to the Super Bowl with a three-game playoff run that included a thrashing of the Panthers in the Jake Delhomme Interception Fest.

The NFC South has two chances Sunday to avoid earning the "worst ever" crown, although the Panthers would seem to have the best shot against the Browns.

Tampa Bay (2-12) is a 10-point home underdog against Green Bay.        

The NFC South already has set a couple of dubious distinctions this season.

Atlanta and New Orleans, at 4-7, became the first teams in NFL history to lead a division at three games under.500.

That same week, the South became the first division to have each of its teams at least three games under .500, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The South is assured of crowning a division champ without a winning record. That's only happened three times previously -- Denver (8-8) in 2011, Seattle (7-9) in 2010 and San Diego (8-8) in 2008.

All three of those teams hosted -- and won -- first-round playoff games.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera was the defensive coordinator of that Chargers' team, which won its final four games to win the AFC West, then knocked off Indianapolis in the playoffs.

Rivera started telling his team and the media about the 2008 Chargers several weeks ago when the NFC South was well on its way to challenging records for futility.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on December 19, 2014 at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 18, 2014

Rivera expects Newton to start vs. Cleveland

Barring any setbacks before Sunday, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said quarterback Cam Newton is on target to start against the Cleveland Browns.

Rivera refused to speak in definitive terms, but conceded Newton would "probably" be the starter if he continues to progress.

Newton took the majority of the first-team reps Thursday and was listed as full participation on the official injury report. Newton sat out last week's win against Tampa Bay after sustaining two fractures in his lower back during a two-car accident Dec. 9 in uptown Charlotte, a block from Bank of America Stadium.

Newton said he didn't want his status to be a distraction before Sunday's game, which has big playoff implications for the Panthers.

"If I can play, we all know that I want to play," Newton said Thursday. "But at the end of the day, I won't jeopardize what we have an opportunity to do just because my selfishness to say, 'Oooh, I'm a tough man.'"

After missing only a handful of snaps due to injury during his first three seasons, Newton has dealt with several injuries this year. He had offseason surgery to tighten the ligaments in his left ankle, then cracked his ribs during an August exhibition at New England.

The rib injury sidelined him for a season-opening win at Tampa Bay. Backup Derek Anderson was 2-0 filling in for Newton against the Buccaneers.

"This has been a year in my whole career of playing -- I'm talking from Pee Wee, 7 years old all the way up until this day -- I've never went through this many injuries," Newton said.

"I kind of prided myself on being a tough guy. I kind of prided myself on being the guy who doesn't get hurt. And yet every week it's kind of been something different."

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on December 18, 2014 at 03:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)