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Panthers still negotiating with Stewart, Otah

By MIKE CRANSTON
AP Sports Writer

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers were expected to still be negotiating with unsigned first-round picks Jonathan Stewart and Jeff Otah when players report to training camp on Friday.

General manager Marty Hurney said late Thursday that there were no breakthroughs in negotiations with either player. He refused to speculate whether he felt contracts would be signed to allow them to get to Wofford College in time for Saturday’s first practice.
“I don’t think you ever have a feel,” Hurney said. “We are talking to agents for both Jonathan Stewart and Jeff Otah. We’re obviously going to do everything we can to try to get them in on time.”

Agents for both players did not return phone and e-mail messages Thursday.
Stewart, the 13th overall pick, and Otah, 19th, were among numerous unsigned first-round picks across the league. But tackle Chris Williams of Chicago, taken one spot after Stewart, reached a five-year, $16 million deal earlier this week. That could help set salary guidelines in the Stewart negotiations.

Quarterback Joe Flacco, taken by Baltimore one slot before Otah, has signed a five-year, $30 million contract.

The Panthers didn’t have a lengthy rookie holdout with Hurney as GM until last year. Linebacker Jon Beason missed the first eight days of camp in a dispute over how his bonus money would be distributed. Beason recovered from the lost time to become Carolina’s starting middle linebacker and leading tackler.

Like Beason, the Panthers plan to get major contributions from Stewart and Otah in their quest to return to playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

Stewart, from Oregon, is expected to be ready to practice after missing offseason workouts to recover from toe surgery. The Panthers hope the 5-foot-10, 235-pound Stewart will help them return to a physical running style missing the past few seasons. He’ll compete with last year’s backup, DeAngelo William s, for the starting running back job after the offseason release of DeShaun Foster.

The Panthers traded next year’s first-round pick to Philadelphia to get Otah with the 19th pick. The mammoth Pittsburgh product (6-6, 330 pounds) practiced with the first team at right tackle during June’s optional workouts. He’s part of an offseason overhaul of the line that will likely see different players starting at all five positions.
The Panthers’ seven other draft picks have signed deals.

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