Panthers Keep Taking Hits

The Carolina Panthers continue to get bad news on the injury front and have a number of question marks personnel-wise entering the Vikings game, but quarterback Jake Delhomme is trying to rally his 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 or Thursday.

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.


NOTES

  • You don't have to tell Panthers guard Mike Wahle how loud the Metrodome can be. After playing six years for the Green Bay Packers, he remembers quite well what it's like to play at Minnesota.

    "They pump in music from extra speakers they put behind your bench so you can't hear anything," Wahle said. "We might have to go out there early and yank the plugs or something, I guess."

    Wahle said whoever starts on the offensive line this week must be mentally ready.

    "You have to go in focused and know your assignments," Wahle said. "Sometimes you're not to going to be able to hear the calls and you're going to have to know the calls and know what to do. The thing is when it gets real loud and you get excited and the place is shaking you have a tendency to let your mind play tricks on you, thinking you heard the snap count.

    "You see more false starts. It's easier for the guards than the tackles because we're closer to the ball. But the key thing to quiet the crowd down is to move the ball. We're going to have to do that, otherwise it does get loud."

  • John Fox refused to be overly critical of his team after last week's 20-6 loss.

    Case in point, when asked about linebacker Thomas Davis, who was out of position most of the day while making his first NFL start at linebacker, Fox said, "He did fine. None of us did well enough. I don't like signaling one guy out. As a team we didn't perform well enough to win on defense, on offense. I think one area where we played well was in the kicking game."

  • Adam Seward will start for Carolina at middle linebacker ahead of the often-injured Dan Morgan.

    "He's irreplaceable as far as I'm concerned," Seward said. "I'm going to try to go out there and help the team win. But he's a guy that you can't really fill his shoes. I believe I'm a great player, but now is a time for me to get better. I look forward to the challenge."

  • The Panthers still haven't decided who will start at right guard this week. That could all depend on if center Justin Hartwig makes it back from a groin injury. Among the candidates include last week's starter Evan Mathis, Geoff Hangartner and rookie Will Montgomery.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 252 — Rushing yards the Panthers gave up last week to the Atlanta Falcons, the most allowed in the John Fox era.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I would think so, yes. And I expect us to. Who knows when he's going to come back? I would love for it to be this week, but who knows? Like last year, when we played Dallas, I go back to that game a lot. Steve was really rolling and then he got ejected in the third quarter when we hadn't done much offensively other than getting a quick touchdown. And then we came back and came alive and made some plays. I would have loved to have had him (on Sunday), but he wouldn't have been all of the answer. We just didn't play well." — Panthers QB Jake Delhomme on if the Panthers offense can get on track if Steve Smith doesn't play.


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