NFL: Panthers Notebook

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 20, 2009

Associated Press
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) ó The Panthers hadn’t even finished their final practice Thursday when Carolina’s equipment staff started loading tackling dummies, yard markers and exercise bikes into a moving van parked next to the field.
Training camp later concluded with the traditional hazing of rookies being taped to the goalpost. Veteran linebackers Thomas Davis and Na’il Diggs then each dumped a bucket of water on them as coach John Fox looked on.
“I thought it was a good camp,” he said. “Guys worked hard.”
It got off to a horrible beginning for Carolina, with starting defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu tearing his Achilles’ tendon less than 30 minutes into the first workout. The team has struggled to find a replacement, and depth issues on both lines were exposed in Monday’s exhibition loss to the New York Giants.
But quarterback Jake Delhomme, who sat out Thursday’s practice to rest, believes the Panthers are on the right track.
“I enjoy camp, I really do,” he said. “But you know what, it’s always nice to get back because you know it’s getting closer to when the season is going to finally start. Certainly we’ve done a lot of work.”
Many players had their cars backed into parking spots at Wofford College for a quicker getaway after 21 practices and 14 nights sleeping on small beds in tiny dorm rooms.
“I don’t care who you are, there’s just something about training camp. It’s a grind,” defensive tackle Damione Lewis said. “But you know, you come here, you focus, you get the work in, practice, focus on your job and try to get better. I think we’ve done that, getting a feel for the new system.
“Now it’s time for me to go home and play with the kids.”

STILL NO STEWART: Thursday marked the 10th consecutive practice that running back Jonathan Stewart has missed because of pain in his left Achilles’ tendon.
The injury, an offshoot from last year’s toe surgery, kept him out of all offseason workouts. He was practicing once a day and being held out of contact early in camp before being completely sidelined.
Fox declined to give an update Thursday on Stewart, who rushed for a franchise rookie record 836 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
“Yeah, I wish he was out there healthy and going full speed. but we have the luxury of some other backs right now who can go out and take his time,” tackle Jordan Gross said. “I don’t really care if he does anything in the preseason. I don’t worry until the regular season starts.”

HIGH PRAISE: Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, now an analyst with ESPN, said during Monday’s Panthers-Giants telecast that DeAngelo Williams could be the best running back in the NFL.
Williams rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns in that game, part of Williams’ breakout season. He had six carries for 29 yards in Monday’s loss.
Gruden didn’t back down when partner Mike Tirico reminded him of Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.
“Well, he was coaching the Bucs last year when we had a great game with them on Monday night,” Gross said. “So he might be a little partial.”
But is Williams the best in the league?
“No offense to you guys,” Gross told reporters, “but I don’t really put much stake in what somebody writes or says, because I don’t want to believe it when it’s bad either.”

BRAYTON’S FAST: While many players no doubt were eager to test their radar detectors on the drive home from camp, they had no chance of going as fast as Tyler Brayton did in the offseason.
The defensive end enrolled in a drag racing school in Gainesville, Fla., where he became a licensed dragster in two of the NHRA’s sportsman categories. Brayton said he once reached 153 mph.
“Whether it be bowling, racing, whatever you’re doing, I love to compete,” said Brayton, who was first exposed to the sport in college at Colorado. “It’s just another outlet for that competitive nature.”
A car junkie, Brayton said he had done some drag racing in the past, but wanted to get licensed and compete at a higher level.
“I don’t ever plan on being a professional driver or anything,” Brayton said. “It’s just a hobby.”

EXTRA POINTS: DT Nick Hayden, who hyperextended his left knee Wednesday night, was back at practice. RB Mike Goodson (bruised leg) was limited. … LB Thomas Davis (knee), LB Landon Johnson (groin), S Nate Salley (knee) and G C.J. Davis (ankle) sat out. … G Keydrick Vincent bruised his knee in the workout. “Nothing serious,” Fox said. … The Panthers will hold a walkthrough practice in Charlotte Friday morning before flying to Miami for Saturday’s second preseason game.