Panthers News and Notes

The Panthers should be pretty healthy heading into Sunday's game at Chicago, with running back Stephen Davis and safety Mike Minter returning to practice on Thursday. Both are listed as probable and are expected to start.

Center Jeff Mitchell (hip), safety Thomas Davis (thigh) and linebacker Vinny Ciurciu (back) also practiced on Thursday, and they were all upgraded from questionable to probable.

Only one player remains in serious doubt for Sunday, and that is starting tight end Kris Mangum, who was downgraded from questionable to doubtful.

Mangum, who also missed last week's game against the New York Jets, is not likely to play this week, and there's a chance he could miss next Sunday's game at Buffalo as well.

Look for second-year player Michael Gaines to get the start in Mangum's place.

Neither Mangum nor Gaines are particularly key targets for Jake Delhomme, but both do a good job of blocking. Mike Seidman will be Carolina's No. 2 tight end and could see a few balls thrown in his direction against the Bears.

--DE Mike Rucker leads a Carolina defense that has caused more turnovers since the start of the 2003 season than any other team in the league.

--DE Julius Peppers said he may play without a cast on his right hand this week, depending on how it feels. Peppers broke a bone in his hand prior to the bye week, but it hasn't slowed his production. He has 4 1/2 sacks in the last two weeks.

--TE Kris Mangum was downgraded to doubtful on Thursday, so don't expect him to play this week.

--TE Mike Seidman will be activated and could have a few balls thrown his way this week. Seidman has been inactive four of the last six games because the team has only gone with two tight ends.

--WR Steve Smith looks to bounce back against the Bears after catching just three passes for 34 yards against the Jets. It will be interesting to see how the Bears defend Smith. It seems anything less than rolling a safety over the top on every play is a risky move for a defense trying to defend Smith.

--RB Stephen Davis goes for his 13th touchdown of the season against the Bears on Sunday. He has yet to rush for more than 81 yards in a game and could have a tough time against the league's top-ranked defense.

--CB Chris Gamble has three interceptions in the last two weeks.

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