Notes, Quotes

It's nice to see that a season of watching football hasn't dulled Steve Smith's sharp edge. <br><br>Smith is scheduled to begin running again next month, and the man with a huge chip on his shoulder is already warning others to take notice that he'll be back.<br><br> Asked recently if he will be ready for minicamp in April, Smith replied, "You could ask Ricky Manning and Chris Gamble what's going to happen at minicamp," implying that the team's cornerbacks had better be ready to be tested.

"It's been up and down for me," Smith said. "It's emotional. I'm just sitting around, moping around. But I'll be ready."

Smith was expected to be the focal point of Carolina's offense in 2004, according to offensive coordinator Dan Henning. However, after a strong training camp Smith broke his leg in the regular-season opener against Green Bay, ending his season.

No matter whether Muhsin Muhammad returns in 2005, Smith is sure to be a big part of the offense again, providing he can return to full speed.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme is optimistic all of Carolina's star players who sat out 2004 with injuries will return with a bit of a chip on their shoulders and something to prove.

"I think they'll respond just fine," Delhomme said. "In talking to a couple of the main ones this morning in Kris Jenkins and Steve Smith ... there's no doubt number 89 (Smith) will be fine. Jenkins, in talking to him, he said, 'I feel great.' He said, 'I'll be ready, I've got something to prove.'

"Guys will respond. We'll probably get some fresh faces in there. Hopefully they'll come in and work the way we work and we'll go from there."

--Safety Mike Minter carries a $6 million cap figure into the 2005 but will likely have to restructure his current contract or possibly even take a pay cut to stay.

Minter, a second-round pick in 1997, would like to get a contract extension and finish his career in Carolina.

"That would mean everything because of the simple fact that was my goal coming out of college, to come to one team and finish with one team," Minter said. "It doesn't happen too often, especially in this day in the National Football League.

"Not only that, just the organization. This is a great organization, a great owner. We've got a great coach now and you've got great guys to play with. You definitely want to end up with that because you were here when it wasn't so great. Now you've got the opportunity to play with some great teams."

Minter has long been one of the most popular players in the organization.

--OTs Matt Willig and Jordan Gross tied for the team lead in penalties in 2004 with nine. Considering he started all 16 games at left tackle, that's not a terrible number for Gross. But it's yet another indication that Willig, who started nine games, needs to be replaced at right tackle.

After re-signing receiver Muhsin Muhammad, right tackle is considered the team's most pressing need heading into the offseason.

Cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. led the Panthers in penalty yardage with 118 on eight penalties. Defensive tackle Brentson Buckner was flagged eight times for 47 yards, and Muhammad and defensive end Julius Peppers were each penalized six times.

--As is customary, the Panthers signed three players off their practice squad -- running back Nick Maddox, wide receiver Antoine Burns and safety Scott Farley -- and signed six more and designated them to play in NFL Europe. Headed overseas for the offseason are former Iowa wide receiver Tim Dodge, a college sprint champion who made a name for himself lately in the low-level af2 league. Also going are former Maryland defensive tackle Charles Hill (a former third-round pick who has spent time with Houston, Chicago and San Francisco), linebacker Justin Smith, who spent two years on Tampa Bay's practice squad), tight end Dan Curley, safety Marcus Floyd and offensive tackle Matt Hill.

Panther Insider Top Stories