CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -The Carolina Panthers released starting running back DeShaun Foster on Thursday, a move that clears salary-cap space and opens the door for DeAngelo Williams to become the team's featured back.
Foster, Carolina's second-round pick in 2002, never rushed for more than 897 yards in six seasons plagued by fumbles and injuries.
``We wish him the best because we'll always hold him in high regard,'' general manager Marty Hurney said. ``We just thought it was time to go in another direction.''
The move clears about $4.75 million in cap space and comes after the Panthers started shopping Foster in the last couple of weeks.
``There were some conversations, but nothing came about,'' Hurney said.
Foster's agent, Joby Branion, did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment. The 28-year-old Foster released a statement through the team indicating he plans to continue his career.
``While I certainly will miss my teammates and friends in Charlotte, my quest for a Super Bowl ring is far from over,'' Foster said.
Carolina's second-round pick in 2002 appeared to have a bright future with the Panthers early in his career. After missing his rookie season with a knee injury, Foster came on late in Carolina's Super Bowl season in 2003, highlighted by his remarkable game-clinching 1-yard touchdown run in the NFC championship at Philadelphia when he broke four tackles
After missing all but four games in 2004 with a shoulder injury, Foster took over as the starter for the aging Stephen Davis late in the 2005 season,
But Foster was fumble-prone and failed to get the Panthers back to the ground-oriented attack that coach John Fox prefers.
Williams, Carolina's first-round pick in 2006, started getting more carries late last season. While Foster gained 876 yards to Williams' 717, Williams averaged 5 yards per carry to Foster's 3.5 and appeared to be much more explosive.
Hurney said the plan is to make Williams the No. 1 back.
``DeAngelo was a first-round pick two years ago and we have all the confidence in him and think that he's very good,'' Hurney said.
Foster's release is another in a series of moves this month for the Panthers, who are overhauling their roster after missing the playoffs for a second straight season. Linebacker Dan Morgan and left guard Mike Wahle, both former starters, were released last week.
Foster, a locker room favorite, joined the list Thursday. And while he'll be remembered as an ordinary back, Foster is Carolina's career leader with 3,336 yards rushing. Foster also saved his best for the postseason - he had a team-record 151 yards rushing in a win over the New York Giants in the 2005 playoffs.
``DeShaun had the ability to make big plays in big games and always gave his best regardless of his role,'' Fox said in a statement. ``He never complained and was a professional in every sense of the word. We wish nothing but the best for DeShaun.''

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