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Steve Smith wants to burn all the plays from the Panthers loss to the Giants

No Hakeem Nicks? No Ahmad Bradshaw? No problem. NFL teams often use the phrase “next man up” when starters go down with injuries, and the Giants exemplified the importance of depth by adhering to it on Thursday night. Their offense looked as good as it has all year, as Eli Manning had his way with the Carolina secondary and reserves Andre Brown and Ramses Barden enjoyed career nights.

But it wasn’t only the Panthers’ defense that struggled. Their offense looked stale right out of the gate. Cam Newton was picked off three times and pressured a ton by the Giants front seven. As Steve Smith put it after the game, nothing worked.

“Everything that we did tonight, we need to go ahead and get a trash can – a good, tin one – and burn those plays and never go back to them,” he said according to the News and Observer. “Because it was shameful for the fans. It was just flat-out terrible. We just got our tails whipped from the beginning to the end in every aspect. It was pretty disgusting.

Sympathy for Carolina fans seemed to be a common theme after the game, as Newton agreed with his star wideout that the loss was embarrassing.

“Who wants to support something that puts on a performance of embarrassment? That’s what that was,” Newton said. “If I was a fan of the Carolina Panthers I’d be holding my head down in shame at the product that was out there.”

The good news for Panthers fans — if there is any — is that it’s only Week 3. Sometimes a little humility early in the season can go a long way.

Photo credit: Chuck Cook-US PRESSWIRE

Panthers C Ryan Kalil takes out full-page ad guaranteeing Panthers win Super Bowl

There’s nothing quite like a little rah-rah to get us all excited for the upcoming NFL season — especially during one of the most boring sports months of the calendar year. Whether it’s Jets players talking about the “greatness” that New York’s 2012 roster contains or division rivals trading trash talk, we all need something to help get us through these slow months. By taking out a full-page ad in the Charlotte Observer to explain why the Panthers will win the Super Bowl this season, Carolina center Ryan Kalil took the excitement into unprecedented territory.

The ad, which can be seen here, has a headline that says “Why the Carolina Panthers will win Super Bowl XLVII” and reads as follows:

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New Panthers jerseys honor former linebackers Sam Mills, Mark Fields (Photo)

Nike quelled a lot of people’s fears of drastic redesigns when the sports apparel giant revealed little, if any, changes to almost every NFL team’s uniform Tuesday. And while Nike’s flywire design is one change that many teams have implemented on the outside of their collars, the Panthers are adopting a more meaningful change to the inside of theirs.

Stitched inside of each player’s collar is the message “KEEP POUNDING,” which is a tribute to former linebackers Sam Mills and Mark Fields. Both men were diagnosed with cancer in 2003, when Mills was an assistant coach and Fields a player. The phrase comes from an inspirational speech Mills made during the Panthers’ playoff run to Super Bowl XXXVIII that season.

“When I found out I had cancer, there were two things I could do — quit or keep pounding,” Mills told the Panthers before a win over the Cowboys, per Pro Football Talk.  “I’m a fighter. I kept pounding. You’re fighters, too. Keep pounding.”

Together, Mills and Fields helped initiate the Carolinas HealthCare Foundation’s Keep Pounding Fund, which benefits cancer research, in 2004. Mills succumbed to the disease in 2005.

This is a tremendous gesture by the Panthers. There’s not many players remaining from the Panthers’ Super Bowl roster. That every player will now be given a reminder of Mills’ uplifting message is terrific.

Photo via @Panthers

Jonathan Stewart or DeAngelo Williams could be traded after Mike Tolbert signing

The Panthers announced the signing of Mike Tolbert Monday, sparking speculation that they may trade one of their running backs. Carolina already has DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Goodson under contract at the position. Stewart will be a free agent after the season. Williams signed a five-year contract last July and would likely have less value on the trade market.

The team is billing Tolbert as a fullback, indicating they plan to keep all three players. Given Tolbert’s success running the ball with the Chargers, I can’t imagine he signed to become a blocking back. This is probably a front by the Panthers to increase their leverage in trade conversations.

If Carolina ends up trading DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart, which is what I think will happen, it could be good news for both players. They’ve split carries the past four seasons and limited each others’ numbers. While having complementary backs is critical to preserving players’ health, it cuts into stats.

Though I believe one back will be traded, it’s worth noting the Charlotte Observer says they were told Stewart won’t be dealt.

UPDATE: Chargers reporter Kevin Acee says Tolbert turned down more money from San Diego to return to the South.

Cam Newton’s Record-Setting Rookie Debut Gives Panthers Reason for Optimism

Cam Newton has gone from a guy who people didn’t think was good enough to win the Heisman Trophy to putting together one of the best performances by a rookie quarterback in his NFL debut. The Panthers quarterback went 24-37 for 422 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and a rushing touchdown in a 28-21 loss to the Cardinals Sunday. His 422 yards set the rookie record for an NFL debut, and the 422 yards ties Matthew Stafford for the most by a rookie in any game. His team may have lost the game, but there is little doubt the Panthers have many reasons to be optimistic.

Cam looked like a quarterback who had two years of pro experience. He navigated his way around the pocket with confidence, made plays to get first downs, and showed incredible accuracy with his passes. His first touchdown pass to Steve Smith may have been the result of a broken coverage, but his second TD pass was a beautifully thrown ball few quarterbacks can make. He took charge of the Panthers and looked every bit like a quarterback fully capable of leading them to victory.

Detractors may point out that Arizona doesn’t have the best defense in the NFL. They are right, however, the Cardinals have some good players in their secondary (namely Kerry Rhodes, Adrian Wilson, and Patrick Peterson). Cam’s performance was one for the ages, and even if it didn’t come against Baltimore, Green Bay, or Chicago, it’s enough to tell us he can be a legitimate quarterback in the NFL.

All quarterbacks experience struggles at some point in the season so there is little doubt Newton will face his problems, but his debut went better than almost anyone could have hoped. It has only been one game, but it already appears as if the Panthers made the right choice by selecting Newton first overall in the draft.

How Three Dumb Draft-Day Trades Crippled the Carolina Panthers

It was only 2008 when the Carolina Panthers were 12-4 and tied for the best record in the NFC. In those playoffs, Jake Delhomme went vintage Delhomme with six turnovers against the Cardinals, paving the way for Arizona’s Super Bowl run. Sure, Jake’s collapse into a colorblind quarterback who kept throwing the ball to the other team weighed heavily on their issues, but how is it possible that the Panthers destructed from 12-4 to 2-14 in only two years? How could they have had the seventh best offense in football in ’08 and by far the worst last season? If you want to find out where things went wrong in Carolina (besides with Jake Delhomme), you don’t have to look further than three horrific trades made by GM Marty Hurney (pictured).

In the 2008 draft, the Panthers picked Jonathan Stewart with their first selection. Then they decided they wanted to hit the Daily Double and traded a second, fourth, and first-round pick in ’09 to move back into the first round to take Jeff Otah with the 19th pick. They surrendered a first rounder, second rounder, and fourth just for another first-round pick. Does that sound like good value to you? Of course not. And the worst part is Otah was hurt last season and has only played 25 games in three years.

As a result of the Otah trade in ’08, the Panthers didn’t have a first-round pick for ’09. Because they had a 12-4 season, they were picking at the back of the draft and didn’t have a selection until the 59th overall pick. That wasn’t good enough for Carolina, so they decided they had to get into the action and made another absurdly foolish trade. They traded their first-round pick in 2010 just to get a second-round pick. Yes, a first for a second. Does it get any dumber than that? Their logic was that Everette Brown was still around with the 43rd overall pick and they rated him as a first rounder, plus with Julius Peppers leaving, so they needed another pass rusher. Still, the math sucks — you don’t trade a first for a second.

Now if you thought Carolina’s draft day stupidity ended there, you would be wrong.

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Carolina Panthers Announce Brian St. Pierre Will Start vs. Ravens Over Tony Pike

Back in 2007, the Carolina Panthers had so many injuries at quarterback they had to bring in then 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde to play quarterback for them. Testaverde wound up starting six games for them, going 2-4 as the team finished 7-9. Three years later, the Panthers have been forced to pick someone up off the streets to play quarterback because of injuries. Only this guy has far, far less experience than Testaverde.

Panthers coach John Fox announced Thursday morning Brian St. Pierre will start at quarterback Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. That’s the same Brian St. Pierre who was unemployed two weeks ago. The same Brian St. Pierre who has thrown just five career passes in the NFL. The man over whom St. Pierre was picked to start, rookie Tony Pike, has thrown more than double the passes in the NFL St. Pierre has — 12 all in week nine against the Saints.

The times we’ve pointed out when a team was stretching with the quarterback it elected to start in a game, the team lost badly. That list includes Todd Bauman for the Jags and Charlie Whitehurst for the Seahawks. Now we are literally talking about a guy off the street coming in to start at quarterback for the Panthers against the Ravens. I don’t know about you, but I’m talking Baltimore and laying the points.