Monday, August 31, 2009

Panthers cut 3, IR 1, one more to com

The first wave of cuts are in for the Carolina Panthers. They are:
WR Ryne Robinson
DT Lorenzo Williams
OT Gerald Cadogan

Placed on IR:
G C.J. Davis

The team still has one more move to make by Tuesday to get to the roster limit of 75. Then by the time the weekend is over, the 53-man roster will be set.

Cutting Robinson loose will give him a chance to catch on with another team, and I hope he does. He would have been a lock for the roster last year, but a knee injury sidelined him. He worked hard, but it would appear that guys like Kenny Moore and Captain Munnerlyn had the upper hand at the punt return duties, something Robinson was jockeying for. Robinson follows WR Jason Carter off the roster, another guy with loads of talent, but a bum knee hurting their chances to make the final 53.

I won't handicap the rest of the cuts just yet--I'll reserve my 53-man prediction until after the Steelers game on Thursday night, in which the starters will see a series or two, if that, according to Head Coach John Fox on Monday.

Mike Solarte

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Back away from the ledge...seriously

Fact: The Carolina Panthers are 0-3 in the pre-season.

Fact: The Panthers went into this season thinking they would have 21 of their 22 starters back from a 12-4 NFC South Championship team.

What does it all mean?

OK, taking it from the top. Exhibition anything results are meaningless (except to the guys that actually want to win). Pre-season wins don't carry over into the regular season. Make the mistakes in the exhibitions, clean it up before the regular season begins, and move forward.

The Panthers were missing 5 of their 21 returning starters against the Ravens, 6 if you count RB Jonathan Stewart. The return of WR Steve Smith was a big lift (I thought), from the standpoint that he is close to starting the season. Missing guys like LB Jon Beason, LB Thomas Davis, S Charles Godfrey and DT Maake Kemoeatu on defense is huge. The guys that played performed admirably, but there are definite deficiencies to be fixed. The glaring weakness is the DT post. We've been saying it all camp long, but the Panthers need assistance there, and they need it in a hurry. Just 1 more pre-season game remains, and the starters will see very limited action against Pittsburgh on Thursday. A new space-eating DT is needed to help the linebackers out (by freeing them up to make plays, rather than take on offensive lineman trying to plow the road ahead). Pass coverage was "shoddy at times," according to Head Coach John Fox. Perhaps another sign of still elarning the coverage schemes. Teams will begin making roster cuts this week (Carolina included), so the waiver wire search will commence in earnest.

Repeating what was said in the dressing room after the 17-13 loss to Baltimore, the defense was unhappy that they tackled poorly (which they did). Props to DT Damione Lewis, for addressing all the questions post-game. He admits the defense is still trying to learn to "just play" the new schemes of first year Defensive Coordinator Ron Meeks. They know the schemes, but they are still thinking, rather than reading and reacting within the confines of that system. Basically, it's paralysis by analysis--a nightmare for a defense. Lewis is frustrated that the defense is still trying to figure things out (so to speak), but he did tell me that he is confident they will get to that comfort point sooner, rather than later.

They have to. The season begins 2 weeks from today.

Mike Solarte

Friday, August 28, 2009

Panthers-Ravens Primer

Normally, I would be stoked about the Panthers 3rd pre-season game. It's the only one that actually feels like a regular season game.

Not so much for this one.

The Panthers are banged up on defense, and that means the backups will be seeing more of the work against a Baltimore team that has the reputation of being tough on defense, and with Joe Flacco at QB, more than capable on offense. The Ravens have plenty of weapons, and I would expect to see them on display Saturday night.

Carolina's offense hasn't been at full capacity all pre-season long. WR Steve Smith and RB Jonathan Stewart have yet to play in the exhibitions, so judging the offense to this point isn't fair. One area that is under the microscope has been ball security. There was improvement between weeks 1 and 2, which is what Head Coach John Fox says he looks for.

Based on the injuries, I am looking for the Panthers to get out of this game as healthy as possible. Seriously. I don't care about wins and losses in the pre-season. My mantra (and repeat it if you like), is this: exhibition anything is meaningless. I don't care if it's football, basketball, hockey, baseball, etc. If it is a pre-season game, the result is pointless, so don't get worked up over it.

** Have you seen this piece of wackiness? Brandon Marshall's "practice" with the Denver Broncos? Check it out here:

I wouldn't facilitate a trade for this clown. I would find a way to not have him on the field and also not have to pay him. Maybe, for displays like that, the Broncos should fine him. You hear it all the time, "conduct detrimental to the team." I would say he crossed that barrier based on the video in the link above.

** It's Friday, and that means the Discount Tire Friday Night Final comes your way at 11 with high school football action from across the state! Hope you can check it out, but if you miss it at 11pm on Friday, you get a 2nd chance with the Saturday morning replay at 11am.

Mike Solarte

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Post practice update

As promised....

DeAngelo Williams did not practice on Wednesday, Head Coach John Fox citing a knee injury. It isn't thought to be serious--in fact, it may not even be an injury, more like a pseudo day off. Williams has been seeing a bulk of the work in practice with Jonathan Stewart sidelined with an achilles injury (Stewart did not practice Wednesday either). Both parts of "Double Trouble" were riding in the Tour de Charlotte during practice--meaning they were riding the stationary bikes with Strength coach Jerry Simmons, and 3 others--none of which was named Jon Beason.

Seeing more work at safety with Sherrod Martin of late. Part necessity with both Charles Godfrey and Nate Salley missing work due to injury at this point. Martin played safety last season at Troy, and is finding his way, according to Chris Harris. Somehow, the Panthers are finding ways to get everyone the amount of work they are comfortable with. Certainly a tough job of juggling for the coaches, but in the end, the season will still start on September 13th. The Panthers have to be ready.

Still nothing on the defensive tackle front. The clock is ticking on the Panthers in that regard. Just 2 pre-season games remain to try and get the kinks worked out as best they can.

Injuries have been of the nagging variety for the offense--Fox and company hope to keep it that way through the next 2 weeks.

More before the Ravens fly into town.

Mike Solarte

Pre-season Week 3

Things stacking up on the ole plate these days with the start of HS football and the like, but a quick look at the Panthers, before heading out to practice today (Wednesday).
  • It is getting close to panic time. Not there yet, but close. Injuries in this pre-season have hit at key spots in the defense. They still have to plug the gap in the defensive line, and so far, none of the guys in camp appear to be ready to grab it. Now LB Jon Beason is banged up with a knee injury, and S Charles Godfrey will miss time recovering from surgery on a broken hand.
  • Hated to see WR Jason Carter cut, but it was a necessity. Panthers signed S Kevin Kaesviharn after Godfrey's injury. Hoping Carter can catch on with another team. Good guy, fights hard, and does his best.
  • QB race behind Jake Delhomme still wide open. Matt Moore and josh McCown have looked good at times, and have struggled in others. Put either guy in with the first team, though, and I think all is fine. Two very capable guys back there.

Non-football related, Jim Courier says Pat Cash will be among the players at the upcoming Breezeplay Championships at the Palisades. Cash joins Courier, Pete Sampras and others in the field. Full field to be announced soon.

OK, off to practice to get updates on injuries. Hope to blog that later.

Mike Solarte

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Panthers gameday, and Allen Iverson?

Panthers notes in a moment. First, have to report that Dime Magazine is posting on its website that Allen Iverson will be joining the Bobcats, with a deal to be announced next week. Mind you, NO ONE from the Bobcats will confirm this to News 14 Carolina.

I find this iffy on a couple of front. First, Iverson is 34, and hardly fits into the "keeping the core young" thoughts. Iverson's better days are behind him. I do think he can still contribute, but there was a reason he was seeing reduced playing time in Detroit after being traded there by Denver.

Second, the Bobcats are still trying to get Raymond Felton inked to a long-term deal. The Bobcats brass (read Michael Jordan), has said all along, re-signing Felton was one of their top priorities this off-season. The sides are still trying to find some common ground to make a multi-year deal a reality.

The thought of Iverson to the Bobcats is plausible on these fronts. First, Larry Brown LOVES him. Loves his game, the way A.I. competes, and all that he can contribute. And yes, Brown is long past the "we're talking about practice," rant of Iverson's from years past. Brown has joked about it (even doing so on the day he was introduced as Bobcats Head Coach), but raves about Iverson whenever the player's name is mentioned.

Second, the A.I. to Charlotte talk could simply be a bargaining chip. The team wants to get Felton in, so they throw out a "hey, we're gonna bring in Iverson," line to an internet site. They run with it, and the Bobcats hope it ends up in front of Felton and his agent. It has been known to happen.

I merely bring it up, because the story was tweeted to me, and to ignore such a thing would be wrong. I'm not saying it's true, as I have gotten no confirmation from anyone on it. I'm just saying it's out there.

Panthers-Dolphins pre-game notes:
  • All players made the trip, but not all will play. Guys that have been banged up and missing practices are likely to watch this one in street clothes. That would include players such as RB Jonathan Stewart and LB Thomas Davis among others. WR Steve Smith has practiced this week, but could still be too sore to go with his banged up shoulder. Then again, the coaches may run him out there for a couple of plays, maybe one or 2 balls thrown in his direction, and then shut him down.
  • Things to watch: The WR's not named Steve Smith or Muhsin Muhammad. Guys like Dwayne Jarrett, Kenny Moore, Ryne Robinson, and Larry Beavers will need to show they belong. Moore did that pretty well last week, and Jason Chery had a TD catch against New York. There are still jobs up for grabs at that spot. Someone has to grab them.
  • The first unit offense will see more action tonight, and I expect they will be a little better. Keep in mind, Stewart likely won't play, and if Smith is limited, the offense will look a lot like it did last week. No home run threat at the WR position, and only one half of "Double Trouble." Mike Goodson was dinged this week in practice, but it wasn't thought to be too serious. If he can play, he will. Note to Goodson--keep the invisible knife in your locker stall. That last time your flashed it cost you $7,500 dollars (for his throat-slash gesture).
  • Defensively, again, watch the DT position. Nick Hayden was dinged in practice this week, but should be able to play. The Panthers still need help in that spot, and my bud Darin Gantt from the Rock Hill Herald writes that GM Marty Hurney is out scouting other exhibition games "in search of."
  • Dante Wesley has been seeing some time at the safety spot in practice, a change from his norm of cornerback. Wonder if that has anything to do with how the Panthers wish to structure their 53-man final roster. It's worth noting.

That will do it for now. If you missed the Discount Tire Friday Night Final, you can check out the show in its entirety every Saturday morning at 11am, or just click here to go back to the News 14 website, and check it out there. We'll have another solid line-up of games from across the state next Friday, so don't miss it!

Mike Solarte

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Adios, Spartanburg!

The Carolina Panthers are about to hear the command, "Gentlemen, start your engines," in Spartanburg. Training camp is wrapping up as this blog is being written. guys, if you check this thing out, watch your speeds!

Camp was as eventful as ever-injuries, near fights during practice, the good, the bad and of course the ugly. Some general observations:

The Panthers DT spot will be upgraded. My colleague Darin Gantt from the Rock Hill Herald offered up some intriguing thoughts. Basically, a guy like LB Jeremy "J" Leman might snag a spot on the 53 man roster because of the Panthers need at DT. There are more expensive linebackers in the mix right now, and Leman has held his own during this camp. Trimming some of the payroll excess could mean a bargain basement price for the Panthers in keeping Leman. It's something to watch.

The kids are alright after all. Rave reviews for guys like RB Mike Goodson, CB Captain Munnerlyn, CB Sherrod Martin and DE Everette Brown. Brown, Martin, DT Corvey Irvin are under more scrutiny because of the Panthers changes/needs in their respective spots. So far, not bad.

WR Dwayne Jarrett has had an average camp. Here's hoping that #80 has some good work in the remaining exhibition games. The Panthers need a viable #3 receiver, otherwise Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad could be in for a long year.

Got asked a question via e-mail, basically asking how many bad games Jake Delhomme can have before the masses stop griping about not signing Michael Vick. Seriously, that question came in.

OK, here's the rub. Before Delhomme's arrival, the Panthers went to exactly one post-season. That was year 2, with Kerry Collins at QB. Carolina got crushed by Green Bay in the NFC Title game. Since Delhomme's arrival, there have been 8 playoff games for the Panthers, 2 NFC Title games, and one Super Bowl trip. Like it or not, Delhomme is the best QB the Panthers have had in their history (and this is with all due respect for the beatings the Steve Beuerlein took while playing behind some suspect weak offensive lines). Yes, Jake is older. Yes, he has had surgery to repair his elbow. No, someone else is not the answer. Jake is the guy. End of story.

Oh yeah, the answer to the question doesn't matter how many bad games he has. If he's not getting it done, the guys behind him will do just as well handing off to DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and throwing the occasional pass. Carolina is a "run first" offense.

One note from hockey, the Carolina Hurricanes are not scheduled to appear on the Versus network for any of the 54 telecasts laid out on Wednesday. There are fans that are upset by this. Seriously? C'mon people. There are bigger issues out there for the Hurricanes to contend with, being on Versus is not one of them. A reminder, you want your team to be on national TV when the games mean something, i.e. the playoffs. Getting on Versus then means your team is doing well, and is contending for the Stanley Cup.

By way of comparison, the Chicago Blackhawks, runners up in the Western Conference to Detroit (like the Hurricanes in the East to Pittsburgh), will be on Versus 10 times. I won't like, this pleases me because of my Chicago upbringing. Still, there are reasons for this. One, the Blackhawks are in TV market #3. The Hurricanes are in market #27. The lower the number, the bigger the market. Also, the Blackhawks are loaded with young, exciting talent. They are considered one of the up and coming teams in the league. Loads of sizzle. At the end of the day, sizzle sells.

The Hurricanes have a wonderful TV package (in my opinion). I'm a hockey guy, love the game, played it through college. Can't get enough of it. I'd love to watch them on NBC in June. Wouldn't you?

Mike Solarte

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

As the Favre Turns.........

An open letter to Brett Favre:

Are you happy now? You finally landed with the Vikings. You finally got the coach and the system you wanted when you asked Green Bay to trade you last year, but settled for the Jets. I just have one request--FIGURE OUT YOUR PLANS EARLY FOR NEXT SEASON! I'm sooooooooooooo sick and tired of this, "I'm retired. No I want to play," routine. Your whole on again, off again saga the last three years is one of the reasons I've stopped watching ESPN. If you want to play, play. If you want to retire, then retire. But this whole wishy-washy, Charlie Brown act has held the media and NFL fans hostage for far too long. Glad you finally figured it out... for this year.

Jason Brown

Giants 24-Panthers 17

The Panthers lost there pre-season opener to the New York Giants on Monday night, 24-17. Some good, plenty of not-so-good to take away from this. Here goes.

1-First team offense. Meh. Hard to give a grade when your number 1 receiver, Steve Smith, is out as he comes back from a shoulder injury, and your 1-A (or 1-B depending on how you rank your guys) Jonathan Stewart is out with an Achilles injury. Those are 2 sizable absences for the Panthers, so hard to judge the skill positions against New York. The Panthers gained 91 yards in the first half. Deduce from that what you will. It wasn't pretty, but given the lack of punch in the lineup, not too worrisome. Yet.

2-First team defense. Well, it's safe to say the Panthers need help at the DT position. For all the thoughts of "one of these guys can try to win the job," the proof was in the pudding. Neither team game planned much (at least by what they admitted to before hand), for this one, and the Giants were whipping Carolina in the middle of the line. It's not a knock against the guys in there--they aren't as big as Maake Kemoeatu (gone for the season after tearing an Achilles tendon on day one of camp). GM Marty Hurney will be busy looking around for a veteran guy that can make an appreciable dent in an offensive line. It would not surprise me if that move came sooner, rather than later. More time in the system, the better chance that new guy will have to be ready on opening day v. Philadelphia.


RB Mike Goodson. Nice work. Ditch the throat slash. You're a professional now, young man.

LB James Anderson. Flew around and made plays (like blocking the punt that resulted in the safety).

DE Everette Brown. Battled hard on every snap. Good to see his contributions so early. He could be a nice rotation end in his rookie year.

LB Dan Connor. Just seeing him back on the field after his torn ACL in 2008 was a sight. He made some plays, too, which doesn't hurt.

Overall, Head Coach John Fox has to like some of what he saw, but he has to be a little concerned about the defense. The starters missed tackles, although they were active. Having virtually no interior push is now officially a big concern, and needs to be addressed. Fox will say that you are judged by wins and losses, and not opinions. True. In the exhibitions, however, the results mean virtually zero, and it is how things come together in those 4 "work out the kinks" games that will set you up for success or failure.

The Panthers are, after 60 minutes, still a work in progress.

Mike Solarte

follow me on Twitter @MikeSolarte

Friday, August 14, 2009

More on Vick plus Panthers

Details on Vick's contract being reported as 1 year deal for $1.6 million, with a team option for a $5M year 2. Incentives could add $3M more.

While those numbers will, no doubt, infuriate the anti-Vick side, this will make them smile.

None of the money is guaranteed.

The Eagles are taking that flyer on him, knowing if he contributes, they get a tremendous athlete at a low price, and it's also a lower price if they pick up year 2. They also aren't out anything if he gets hurt.

From my side of things, Philadelphia is an ideal landing spot for him, as that means the Panthers did not sign him. I got a chuckle out of some of the "Vick to Panthers" stories, and even read (and watched) one report say it was confirmed the Panthers were interested in Vick. MY thoughts are with my Philadelphia sports journalists. They just got a side helping of more work added to their plate.

Panthers nuggets on this Friday:

  • Steve Smith was back on the field in pads this morning. He did all of the work leading up to the team drills. Smith was held out of those workouts, likely as a precaution. Again, Panther Nation exhales. I still don't expect Smith on the field for the first 2 pre-season games, but perhaps the 3rd, and some light work in the 4th, barring any further injuries.
  • Jonathan Stewart did not participate in the morning practice, his 3rd straight day watching. Starting to wonder how serious that achilles injury is. Sure, it's just week 2 of camp, and the team has 4 weeks of pre-season. This thing kept him out of summer school workouts, too. Caution, caution, caution.

Things to watch on Monday night when the Panthers face the NY Giants in their pre-season opener.

  • The play at the defensive tackle spot. Maake Kemoeatu's injury means the Panthers have work to do to fill that void. I would not be surprised if Damione Lewis sees limited, and I mean LIMITED work against the Giants, just to try and keep him healthy.
  • Wide receivers. the top 3 spots (in all likelihood) are set. Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammad, and Dwayne Jarrett. Who the number 4-5 receivers are is still up in the air. Ryne Robinson, Jason Carter, Kenny Moore, Larry Beavers, Marcus Monk and others are trying to make an impression. They need to, for either a receiver spot, or simply a special teams spot. Robinson and Carter are coming off injuries from a year ago, and Moore is a Charlotte native (Butler High School, and Wake Forest Univ.), and would love nothing more than a jersey wit4h his hometown team. The battle continues.
  • Running backs. DeAngelo Williams and Stewart are 1A and 1B (you pick which is which), but Mike Goodson has had a big camp to date. He's shown speed and he's also impressed in the return game on special teams. Williams and Stewart should be guarded closely in the pre-season, so they are ready for the real action. Gotta have some spare RB's on the roster, so who is it gonna be?

Gonna skate for the weekend, but if something crosses my mind, I'll be sure to share. Have a great one!

Mike Solarte

follow me on Twitter @MikeSolarte

Vick Rumor Cautionary Tale for Media

This is not to say "We told you so," but there's a reason the Michael Vick to Carolina rumors didn't come from your local media that cover the Panthers day in and day out. That's because the story was most likely just speculation. As the years have gone by, I've become more and more disenchanted with the "World Wide Leader in Sports." Just like today's 24 hour national news networks, they seem more interested in talking heads speculating on moves teams may make than actual reporting of facts. Ask yourself a question. How many times have you watched one of ESPN's shows and heard something about your favorite team that none of the local media had reported? This Michael Vick story is a perfect example. Granted the Panthers front office and coaching staff don't make it easy to glean any insight into their plans (just the age of the NFL we're living in these days). However, we as journalists--yes I used the "J" word because that's what we should still aspire to be--must remember that job one is to get the story right, not be the first to speculate.

Jason Brown

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ok, it's done

According to, Michael Vick has signed a 2 year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Terms not yet disclosed, but that will come in the next few hours, no doubt.

As we have been saying all along, Vick will not be a Panther. This confirms it.

Good for him that he's getting another shot, and I wish my media brethren in Philly well. Their jobs just got a bit tougher, and perhaps a bit more entertaining.

Mike Solarte

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Can we please, PLEASE stop the madness?

It's maddening. It's enough to make you want to pull your hair out, if your a Panthers' fan, or cover the team on a regular basis.

Michael Vick is going to be a Carolina Panther, if you ask the right member of the media.

Guys, it's not happening. Really.

I'll be stunned if that day comes to pass.

Let me remind everyone that I am all for Vick getting a second chance in the NFL, if a team is willing to take on the responsibilities of handling the nearly-guaranteed fallout from a certain element of the fan base. I just don't believe the Panthers are the organization to take that step.

Yet, that's not stopping folks like ESPN's Michael Smith from standing in front of a camera and explaining why Vick is the perfect match for the Panthers. Smith's reasons: The Panthers aging QB (Jake Delhomme), Head Coach John Fox's tenure, and the team's familiarity with him, having seen him avoid tackles and dance down the field.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen says, via Twitter, "On Panthers, Vick had great games v. them; Fox liked Pat White coming out but he went to Miami. Bible Belt = Forgiveness & redemption." Seriously? You're attributing the bible belt as the reason he'll be a Panther? Mortensen later replied to my question, basically asking if he was serious, by tweeting, "I have talked about why Panthers made sense not that they are the team."

Let me offer you counter arguments to Vick being a Panther.

Rae Carruth. Talented wide receiver, but ran afoul of the law when he was convicted of having someone shoot his then pregnant girlfriend. She was killed, the baby lived.

Todd Sauerbrun. Former Panther punter that, once he started committed driving infractions (along with alleged steroid use), found his way out of favor with the folks upstairs, even though he was still more than capable of booming kicks. His constant griping about making weight didn't help things, either.

Jarrod Cooper. See Sauerbrun with the whole driving and alleged steroid issues. He never griped about weight, though.

Bottom line, the Panthers are far less likely to take a flyer on a guy with a questionable history or baggage.

You keep reading the Panthers are a "class organization."

Now you know why.

Mike Solarte

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Late Monday/Early Tuesday

Knocking out some quick thoughts before bed.
  • Panthers owner Jerry Richardson visited the team during Monday morning's workout. Great sign seeing the Big Cat at camp, chatting with players and coaches. Another indication that the new heart is doing its job. The donor organ had to be something special for this special man. So far, so good. It will be great seeing him more and more, now that the season is fast approaching. Here's to continued positive recovery for a man who has done far more good for the NFL, and North Carolina than so many other owners combined. Richardson gets it, and fans should take notice and applaud him. If you did before, ramp it up a bit. He's more than deserving.
  • Steve Smith went down with an injured shoulder. Word in the Twitterverse is that it's a shoulder strain (per his agent via Charles Chandler). Would keep him out of action for a minimum of 2 weeks. While no player wants to be banged up, this could be a blessing for Smith. The offense isn't radically different, thanks to continuity from Offensive Coordinator Jeff Davidson. Smith knows the system. He is the unquestioned leader of the receiving corps. Should he miss the pre-season, the only thing he'll miss is being knocked around in games that mean zero. Smith is not a guy that NEEDS to practice. He wants to, because he's a competitor. He won't benefit much from running all those routes in practices, and getting a couple catches in the exhibitions. Could be a blessing in disguise for him, and the offense as a whole. The Panthers "run first" mentality is priority one. Smith has done a better job as a blocker in those sets, so again, he'll miss practicing his run-blocking in the pre-season. Not the worst thing in the world. The injury is a concern, but in the big picture, that concern should be mild, provided the injury isn't more severe.
  • Panthers have just one practice set for Tuesday, at 3pm. Should be another hot one out there, but the team can start looking ahead to an opponent. They will be 7 days out from their first exhibition game, and with the rash of injuries that have hit their starters, look for the depth chart to get a lot of looks. In case you've overlooked them, the injuries have been: LB Thomas Davis, LB Jon Beason, DT Maake Kemoeatu (out for year), S Nate Salley, RB Jonathan Stewart, RB DeAngelo Williams, and now Smith. Injuries happen in football, it can't be avoided. Those players that aren't listed as "ones" will have more than their fair share of work now in practices, and in pre-season games, to show their stuff.

Bottom line on the pre-season is this. Exhibition ANYTHING is meaningless. The Panthers can go oh-fer in the pre-season, and it ultimately won't mean anything. Sure, the players and coaches want to win. As Nuke LaLoosh of Bull Durham fame once said, "I love winning. It's like better than losing." That matters in the real year.

Mike Solarte

Friday, August 7, 2009

1 week in

OK, almost one week in. As I type this blog post, the Panthers are wrapping up their morning practice in Spartanburg. One more to go today, and then the team will be looking at a Saturday workout at Bank of America Stadium for Fan Fest. Then a night away from football with family and friends.

So far, here's what we have learned.

The DT position got real thin (no pun intended), after Maake Kemoeatu went down with his season-ending achilles injury. Even after signing rookie DT George Hypolite, the Panthers are still looking for additional depth (read veteran) to fill that void. The search continues.

By all accounts, the offense will be the side of the ball that needs to perform well if the Panthers are going to be successful. It's a matter of numbers. All 11 starters are back on the side of the ball. They hung some stout stats up in 2008. Health will be the biggest factor in determining how far the Panthers can go. When was the last time that the Panthers were in camp, and the offense was thought to be the strongest of their 3 phases? Under John Fox, the defense has always been the side that has been at the forefront.

The WR position isn't as thin as people might think, in my opinion. Once you get past Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad, there is a noticeable drop in experience. Here's why my glass is half full on the subject. Dwayne Jarrett (barring injury) will be a force. He stepped up and made some big catches in big situations last season. It seems like Jake Delhomme started trusting Jarrett more with those throws in 2008. Look for more in 2009. You also have Jason Carter, who is coming off of knee surgery in 2008. A year ago, Carter was having a huge camp, but was injured. In my opinion, that cost him a roster spot. Ryne Robinson was also banged up, but he's back. His main gig will be to return punts and kicks, with Mark Jones gone to Tennessee. The Panthers may or may not need a 5th WR based on these 5 players. Larry Beavers might be the guy to lock up that spot IF the Panthers go that route.

Injuries are a part of football, but when knee dings hit Thomas Davis and Jon Beason in the first week, that's a shot of reality. Davis and Beason don't need THAT much work in camp. Sure, there's a new DC in Ron Meeks on board, but Davis and Beason are two guys that get it. They should be back on the field next week (that's the hope anyway), and should be ready to start the season. Ultimately, the regular season is the most important. Get some work in the pre-season, but not so much that you blow yourself up.

Other notes in the world of sports: App State QB Armanti Edwards is out 2-4 weeks after injuring his right foot in a lawn mowing accident. Note to Armanti: They are called "freshmen." Have one of THEM cut your grass. Seriously, you've earned that right.

Props to Tucker Dupree, the paralympic swimmer from Cary, NC. he was chosen to Team USA's short course squad that will swim in Brazil in December. Nice young man, great athlete, wonderful story.

Hey Charlotte Bobcats, can you guys get a deal done with Raymond Felton, like now, so you have a chance at growing the fan base? Nothing makes an organization look worse to the public, than when they drag their feet on signing a player the fans love. Don't completely give in, but get the talking to the serious level. Meet halfway, sign the deal (that goes for you, too, Raymond--gotta meet in the middle), and start promoting this new look team. I'm sure Tyson Chandler will enjoy dunking lob passes from Felton in the same way he enjoyed them from Chris Paul.

One other item, an American hockey legend retired on Thursday. Jeremy Roenick ended his career after 20 NHL seasons. I had the rare pleasure of seeing him play at the tender age of 16, back in 1986. He was part of USA Hockey's program along with a couple other players Mike Modano and Keith Tkachuk. and they all skated in a tournament near my hometown in Illinois. All of those players showed they had the game to go to the big stage, but Roenick had that extra flash. You knew he would be brash, bold, and flamboyant. He was all those things as a professional, but above all, he was simply a hockey player. Cheers, JR. Enjoy the golf course.

Mike Solarte

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

OK, it's official

Maake Kemoeatu's season is in the books, after surgery to repair a torn achilles tendon on Wednesday. The Panthers have signed George Hypolite to the roster to take his spot, although it will be hard to fill Kemo's rather large shoes on the defensive line.

Had the chance to speak with GM Marty Hurney on Wednesday--you can see that interview on Sports Night tonight at 10. Among the topics, the addition of Hypolite, the cap situation, camp in general. Check it out.

Injury news from Wednesday, LB Thomas Davis with a knee tweak. By all reports, it is not believed to be serious. Also RB Jonathan Stewart will be held to 1 practice per day as his achilles continues to bother him. That injury kept him out of summer school workouts--no worries. The Panthers know what he can do.

Just 3 days, and 5 practices in, this camp seems to have gone from one of unfinished business to a bit of concern. Starters are banged up early, meaning they are getting less work in practice. Caution is a big buzzword. LB Jon Beason is still slowed with a hamstring issue, OL Duke Robinson had overheating problems on Tuesday and was held out Wednesday. It's the grind of camp, and a part of the game, yet one wonders if all these early issues might lead to something bigger down the road. Panther fans are hoping that the bigger down the road is actually better. Time will tell.

Mike Solarte

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Kemo likely done for 2009

No one is officially saying it, but Maake Kemoeatu's 2009 season ended before it began. He'll undergo achilles tendon surgery to repair a complete tear on Wednesday. Timetable (roughly) looks like this. Off his feet for 4 weeks after surgery. Then start rehab. So it's September before he stands up, and week 1 is September 13. He's done for the year, folks. It would be nothing short of a miracle if he can play before the season ends.

Panthers have to find a way to plug that gap. Kemo plays such a vital role in stopping the run, simply because of his size. It's still so early to try and determine who will be the guy to step in--he could be on the roster now, or be brought in later as a free agent. It's one of the spots we'll be keeping an eye on going forward.

The heat claimed one player-OL Duke Robinson had some heat related issues, and was taken off the field as a precaution. It's getting steamy down there...if you plan on checking out the workouts, bring plenty of your favorite hydrating beverage.

Tonight on Sports Night, we'll hear from Double Trouble (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart), as well as Ryan Kalil, and others. Make sure you check it out at 10 p.m.

Mike Solarte

Monday, August 3, 2009

Panthers watch, day 1

I am at the disadvantage of not being at camp, but based on all reports, and a conversation with our own Tim Baier, the morning workout was good, except for some injuries.

Maake Kemoeatu was carted off with an ankle injury. No update on how serious it is just yet, so we'll be keeping tabs on that. As mentioned in the previous entry, the defensive line is especially thin when it comes to depth, so this will give the coaches a chance to see some other face in that spot. Already, Marlon Favorite has been plugged in to take Kemo's reps.

Jon Beason had a hamstring wrap during practice--he apparently tweaked it before camp. the wrap was precautionary, and Beason told Tim Baier that he's fine.

I was at camp on Sunday for the player arrivals, and was surprised to hear the candid nature of Steve Smith as he addressed returning to Spartanburg, and his desire to be one of the team's leaders. Smith has had to endure endless criticism for his part in last year's training camp fight, and I give him high marks for stepping up, and letting the media inside his head. He's remorseful, and wants to prove to everyone that he's not the bad guy some make him out to be. The team did well to put that incident behind them, so the fact that Smith volunteered his thoughts was a sign (to me anyway), that he's still feeling the affects of it, and wants to make things right.

On the flip side, Julius Peppers was playing hide-and-seek from the media Sunday. He parked his Maserati on a sidewalk next to the dorms (I would too, if I drove one of those babies), and once he ducked into the building, he sent Panthers team helpers (read kids) to get his bags from the car. No idea when he moved his car (if he did at all), as I headed back to Charlotte after about an hour's worth of stake-out.

Peppers has every right not to address the media. I get that. I'm not griping about him ducking the cameras and tape recorders. What he has to realize is that his contract puts him squarely under the microscope. He will be paid an average of $1 million dollars per game. He knows it, the fans know it, the league knows it. For those reasons, Peppers needs to be the big time player that he has shown to be in the past. If he is not playing well, his distance from the media could be a bad thing. We'll have to see how it plays out.

Loads of camp news on News 14 Carolina, so make sure you check it out!

Mike Solarte