Panthers turn to veteran receivers Hackett, Muhammad Print
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Sunday, 04 May 2008 09:39
NFL Headline News

 CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -Just like last season, No. 18 lined up next to Steve Smith in the Carolina Panthers' three-receiver set at Sunday's minicamp practice.
Only this No. 18 wasn't the underachieving speedster with suspect hands. The Panthers have traded out Drew Carter for D.J. Hackett.
Keary Colbert wasn't around on the sun-splashed morning either. Veteran Muhsin Muhammad, another offseason pickup, was split wide right on the same play.
Hackett and Muhammad are part of Carolina's offseason upgrade at receiver that is designed to eliminate the constant double teams faced last season by Smith, a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
``I don't know much about what was here before. I'm not going to comment on that,'' Hackett said when asked about Carolina's woes with Carter and Colbert, who were released in the offseason. ``But from the looks of it now, it looks pretty good to me. We've got a lot of talent, and some age, but not too old. It looks good.''
Hackett, part of a deep pool of receivers in Seattle, was limited to six games last year because of a lingering high-ankle sprain. When the Seahawks made little effort to keep him, Hackett signed a two-year, $3.5 million deal with Carolina. The Panthers signed Muhammad after he was released by Chicago.
``What you try to do is regroup in the offseason,'' coach John Fox said. ``That was an area, the wide receiver position, where we felt like we needed to add some depth, not just good players, but good guys, too. I think we hit that on both those guys.''
While Smith is three years removed from leading the NFL in catches, yards receiving and touchdown catches, his numbers have dipped the past two seasons as the Panthers searched for a No. 2 receiver.
Keyshawn Johnson caught 70 passes in 2006, but the Panthers struggled to score, went 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
Johnson was released when the Panthers drafted Dwayne Jarrett in the second round in 2007. But Jarrett not only didn't become the immediate starter the team had hoped, he was on the inactive list for much of the season as he struggled to learn the playbook and get off the line of scrimmage.
Carter and Colbert split time as the No. 2 receiver, but combined for only 70 catches while Smith faced smothering attention from opposing defenses in a 7-9 season.
The Panthers acknowledged their mistakes when they brought in Hackett shortly after they re-signed Muhammad, who left Carolina for Chicago after the 2004 season.
``It really, really felt good to put on a Panther helmet again, and go and sit in my old locker again, and go out and catch some balls, laugh and joke around with my teammates,'' said Muhammad, who turns 35 on Monday.
Now the Panthers hope the speedy Smith will get some room to maneuver.
``Teams are going to pay attention to all of us, I think,'' Hackett said. ``That should open it up for everybody.''
It was only minicamp, but Smith made one of his trademark athletic, over-the-shoulder grabs for a touchdown near the end of Sunday's practice. He spiked the ball and then turned to about the two dozen fans watching the workout through a fence and raised his hands in celebration.
Oh, and he was single-covered when quarterback Matt Moore found him along the left sideline.
``With D.J. and Moose, there's lot of experience between those two guys,'' Moore said. ``They're just going to make us a better football team.''
 

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