Delhomme: "It's time to rally the troops."

One week into the NFL season and the Carolina Panthers are mentally and physically a mess.

Not only are the Panthers coming off a devastating 20-6 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons in which they were dominated on both sides of the football, but they may be heading into this week's game at Minnesota without four starters including, once again, All-Pro receiver Steve Smith.

Smith, who had 11 catches for 201 yards last year against the Vikings, is still nursing a hamstring injury and didn't practice Wednesday.

The Panthers lost starting left tackle Travelle Wharton to a season-ending knee injury on Sunday and middle linebacker Dan Morgan has already been ruled out for this week's game after suffering his fifth concussion.

The news got worse on Wednesday when center Justin Hartwig missed practice with a groin injury, further throwing the offensive line into a state of confusion.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme said it's time to rally the troops.

"You can't walk around with your head down," Delhomme said. "You can't mope around because there is another animal waiting to eat you alive this Sunday. You have to get over it. Yeah, it should hurt. But you can't mope around and feel sorry for yourself. You have to go out and get ready to play. I think that is the way guys are on this team. We have to bounce back."

As for the injuries, Delhomme expects others to step up.

"We don't keep guys here to fill a roster spot," Delhomme said. "We expect that when things break down those guys are ready to come out and play. That's a challenge. But there is something about going on the road when everybody is against you, nobody is going to give you a chance and you go out and play well. That is what we're shooting for -- to try to play well."

Carolina's defense, in particular, should have something to prove after giving up 252 yards rushing to the Falcons last week.

Luckily for the Panthers, the Vikings won't be running many "stretch" running plays -- something that killed Carolina last week. However, Adam Seward will be making his first NFL start at middle linebacker in place of the injured Morgan, so there's a decrease in talent and experience there.

"We have to show everybody what kind of a football team we really are this week," said linebacker Chris Draft, who could be filling in for starter Na'il Diggs this week at weak side linebacker.

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