|Minus Jenkins, Panthers move along|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 13 June 2007 11:45|
``I've got to take the responsibility of being the fattest guy out there,'' said 370-pound defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu with a smile.
For now, the Panthers have shied away from criticizing Jenkins.
His agent said at the beginning of the workouts that Jenkins was tending to family business. But he also said Jenkins, scheduled to make about $3 million a season through 2009, wanted a new contract.
Those comments came after the Panthers, concerned with Jenkins' weight, put him on the trading block but couldn't work out a deal on draft weekend.
``At the end of the day, it's a business,'' said Damione Lewis, who has taken Jenkins' spot on the first team next to Kemoeatu. ``He has a situation that he needs to handle. However he handles it, he handles it. It's none of my business.''
Jenkins appeared well over his listed weight of 335 pounds during the team's mandatory minicamp last month. He's had no contact with the team since. There is uncertainty if he'll hold out during training camp - if he's not traded before then.
``Hopefully he comes back. I'm looking forward to seeing him,'' Kemoeatu said. ``He's a great teammate and a great mentor to me.''
The 6-foot-5 Kemoeatu acknowledged he needs to lose between 20 and 30 pounds before training camp starts next month. Jenkins likely has to lose more.
``It would be nice if he could trim down a little bit, but knowing Jenks, he can play at whatever weight that he's going to be at,'' Kemoeatu said. ``Because he's so talented he can play big, small, whatever. But I think his best season is when he was down in the 340s or 350s.''
Jenkins, Carolina's second-round pick in 2001, developed into one of the NFL's top defensive tackles, making consecutive Pro Bowls in 2002 and 2003.
But Jenkins missed all but five games the next two seasons with shoulder and knee injuries. While he was sidelined, Jenkins' weight soared and he acknowledged he became depressed and drank too much.
Jenkins returned last season and was a surprise pick for the Pro Bowl in his first season with Kemoeatu, who was signed away from Baltimore.
Jenkins' absence is an opportunity for the 6-foot-2, 301-pound Lewis, a former first-round pick of the St. Louis Rams who was signed as a free agent before last season.
``I look at it as getting in there and doing my job,'' Lewis said. ``If he's not here or if he is here and he goes down, it's going to be the same thing. I have to be prepared to start anyway the situation turns.
``And when I'm out on the field I play like a starter anyway, so it doesn't matter to me either way.''
If Lewis replaces Jenkins, Kemoeatu expects to take on more double teams and allow the more athletic Lewis to freelance and frequently rush the passer.
But Kemoeatu isn't giving up on Jenkins.
``I'm supposed to give him a call to see how his weight is doing and say, 'What's up?''' Kemoeatu said.