Even though coach George Seifert won't say it for the record, all indications are that Tshimanga Biakabutuka won't be playing much (if at all) when the Panthers host Green Bay on Sunday. The former first round pick has been running with the scout team in practice this week. The playing time at running back has been split between rookie Nick Goings and Richard Huntley.
With the return to health of Huntley, it has opened the door for Seifert to bench Biakabutuka while he works through him problems hanging onto the ball. Huntley was brought in from Pittsburgh to push Biakabutuka for the starting job, but has been on the sidelines since the early days of training camp with a hamstring injury. Goings, an undrafted free agent, won a job with an impressive camp, and started against Atlanta last week.
Biakabutuka has had a very checkered career with the Panthers, showing flashes of brilliance, but more often, injury problems. Now, he can't hang onto the ball. Seifert has talked about the way teams focus on guys who can hold on, much like the cornerback that gets burned a few times, they go around with a "target on their backs".
This week, Seifert said, "there are two ways to deal with this (fumbling problem), let him work through it or don't give him the ball."
Right now, it appears that he may be pursuing the second option.
Biakabutuka has had problems hanging onto the ball since the pre-season started. Then, he had a, potentially, damaging loss in the opener at Minnesota, dropping one inside the 10 following a completed pass. Against Atlanta, he just had it pop out of his hand during a run on which he'd already gained more than 10 yards. That was late in the first half...he didn't play again.
To his credit, Biakabutuka has taken a positive attitude saying that he "doesn't believe this is the end of his days in Carolina. It's just something I need to work through."