Lewis ready to fill Jenkins' role

In Kris Jenkins' absence, Damione Lewis has been practicing like a guy who's ready to step in and start.

You have to wonder if the Carolina Panthers made the right decision by not taking a second-round draft pick from the St. Louis Rams for Kris Jenkins before the time of the NFL draft. At the time, the Panthers were holding out for a first-round pick in exchange for the three-time Pro Bowler.

But now Jenkins appears disgruntled and he failed to show up for the Organized Team Activities.

Jenkins wants a new contract and there's a chance he will not show up for training camp unless he gets one. The problem is Jenkins has missed more games in the last three years (27) than he's played in, and the team probably doesn't feel like it needs to reward him with more money, especially given the fact Jenkins appears to be having a hard time motivating himself to lose weight as it is.

With Jenkins gone, a healthy Damione Lewis is practicing like a guy who's ready to step in and start.

Lewis is coming off off-season shoulder surgery that has left him feeling like a new man. It's an injury that dates back to his third year in the league (2003) and one that he's addressed in the past through rehab. However, after banging it in a Week 5 game against Cleveland, Lewis ultimately decided it was time to have surgery.

"It seemed like every week it was just consistently getting worse," Lewis said.

Lewis stuck it out, playing the full 16 games but his production tailed off as the season progressed. In his first 10 games he had 23 tackles and 4.5 sacks; in the last six he had seven tackles and no sacks.

Lewis said it was a decent season, but added, "It could have been a lot better."

Some of that can be attributed to the shoulder problems. Shortly after the season he had bone spurs removed.

"I spent a lot of time in the training room just getting it to where I was able to go out and perform on Sunday," Lewis said. "Then it started all over again on Monday with the training room, building it back up for the next game. I've got all that behind me, so I'm excited about that. Now I've got a full range of motion, something I didn't have last year. It feels pretty good. It's feeling a lot better, still working through some kinks with it, but it feels a hell of a lot better now than it did last year at this time."

A former first-round draft pick in 2001 by the St. Louis Rams, Lewis spent five relatively disappointing seasons there before hitting the free agent market. He signed a two-year, $4 million deal with the Panthers in 2006 hoping that by moving to a defensive-minded team it might revitalize his career.

Panther Insider Top Stories