Panthers place Kemoeatu on injured reserve, sign Hypolite

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 6, 2009

By Mike Cranston
Associated Press
SPARTANBURG, S.C. ó The Carolina Panthers placed starting defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu on injured reserve, ending his season the same day he underwent surgery on his torn Achilles’ tendon.
The Panthers replaced him on the 80-man roster with defensive tackle George Hypolite, an undrafted rookie.
Kemoeatu said Tuesday he was holding out hope of returning for the last month of the season, but the Panthers couldn’t hold a roster spot that long.
“It was kind of expected,” coach John Fox said of the decision. “Usually an Achilles’ rupture is that kind of injury. I think the surgery went well, and we’ll start the rehab process.”
The 6-foot-1, 290-pound Hypolite played at Colorado and was waived by Jacksonville last month.
* FULL HOUSE: Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme isn’t ready to discard incumbent Brad Hoover even though the Panthers used a fourth-round pick on a fullback.
Bringing up the subject himself, Delhomme made a strong case for Hoover, the 10-year veteran fullback trying to hold off rookie Tony Fiammetta.
“I’m going to get up on my soapbox a little bit. Brad Hoover does not get the credit he deserves,” Delhomme said. “It’s true. I think he goes under the radar. He’s such a key part of our running game. … He’s a guy I wish would get more national recognition, meaning more Pro Bowls and things like that.”
Hoover, a Ledford High School alum, hasn’t made a Pro Bowl in a career that began as an undrafted rookie out of unheralded Western Carolina. He was credited last year with helping running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have breakout seasons.
“If you don’t have a good fullback who doesn’t understand fronts, the depth of linebackers, how linebackers are going to scrape over, then they’re just going to run into a hole,” Delhomme said. “With Brad, he reads everything so well. He can cut back to seal off somebody, that’s where you see those cutback runs.”
Hoover will turn 33 before the end of the season. The Panthers don’t usually carry two fullbacks, and they also rarely cut a rookie taken as high as the fourth round.
“He’s a guy that is fighting Father Time and Mother Nature, too. But what he does best is he’s a technician,” receiver Muhsin Muhammad, said. “He’s the biggest, the fastest or strongest, but he’s going to help all the other players improve their stats.”
FASTER SMITH?: Steve Smith just turned 30, yet he thinks he might be even faster.
“I feel like I’ve got a little giddy-up in my step,” Smith said. “I feel fast. I actually feel faster. I’m doing pretty good.”
Smith was reflective on reporting day about his recent milestone birthday and the need to put negative events from the past behind him. Smith indicated he needed to become more of a leader, something Muhammad has noticed early in camp.
“He’s a guy that the guys look up to,” Muhammad said. “To be able to share some knowledge and experience he’s had through the course of his career is something I see him doing more than before.”
* EXTRA POINTS: Fox was unhappy with the pace early in the morning practice. “Even if you are tired, don’t look tired,” he yelled. … Ryne Robinson skipped the morning workout to rest, leaving Kenneth Moore and rookie Larry Beavers returning punts. Beavers got an earful after he muffed one. “If you can’t catch the ball we’ve got problems,” special teams coach Danny Crossman yelled. … The Panthers practice once Thursday at 3:10 p.m.