|Delhomme clearly leading Panthers ahead of camp|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 26 July 2008 00:03|
So talk of Brett Favre's possible unretirement was still in its infant stages when Carolina was mentioned as potentially Favre's new home if he left Green Bay.
But it was clear when players reported to training camp Friday that this is Jake Delhomme's team, despite concerns over his surgically repaired right elbow.
``Jake's our guy. Jake's my guy,'' receiver Steve Smith said. ``Anybody else, I'm not interested.''
Delhomme's health is the biggest question for Carolina ahead of the first practice Saturday. He had eight touchdown passes and one interception last year before he was lost for the season in Week 3. The Panthers promptly disintegrated under a carousel of QBs that included the woefully unimpressive David Carr, 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde and undrafted rookie Matt Moore.
After going 7-9 last season, how the new tendon in Delhomme's elbow responds may determine if the Panthers return to the playoffs after a two-year absence.
``I'm not out here to try to be a hero. I'm going to do what's best, but the arm feels great,'' Delhomme said. ``I've been home in Louisiana the last four or five weeks. and knock on wood, I haven't had any setbacks. Everything is ready.''
Delhomme will line up behind a revamped offensive line and in front of a new backfield when two-a-days begin Saturday morning.
Carolina drafted running back Jonathan Stewart of Oregon with the 13th pick, then gambled by trading next year's first-round choice to Philadelphia to take Jeff Otah 19th overall.
Otah is expected to start at right tackle and Stewart will compete with DeAngelo Williams for the starting job after DeShaun Foster was released.
With both rookies expected to play such big roles, there was nervousness as they remained unsigned on the eve of the first practice.
As contract talks continued Friday, Smith, sporting a new beard and toting a video camera for a first-person training camp story he's doing for the NFL Network, was in good spirits.
Despite his disdain for camp, Smith was thrilled to see Muhsin Muhammad and D.J. Hackett set up their dorm rooms at Greene Hall on the Wofford College campus. The Panthers signed the veteran receivers after not re-signing Keary Colbert and Drew Carter, whose ineffectiveness allowed teams to send constant double teams at Smith last season.
``I think when things don't go right, the next year you need new faces,'' Smith said. ``Hopefully it's for the best and it will help us all the way to where we're not just looking great in September, but we're also looking good in January.''
The biggest concern on the other side of the ball is defensive end Julius Peppers after he was nearly invisible in a 2 1/2-sack season in 2007.
Peppers was moved to his more natural position of right defensive end after Mike Rucker's retirement. Newly signed Tyler Brayton is expected to start at the other end spot.
Damione Lewis, a former backup, will take over at defensive tackle after three-time Pro Bowl pick Kris Jenkins was traded to the New York Jets following several seasons of weight problems.
Richard Marshall, entering his third season, could challenge Ken Lucas and Chris Gamble for a starting job at cornerback. Chris Harris, armed with a contract extension, is expected to join rookie Charles Godfrey as the starting safeties.
Landon Johnson, signed away from Cincinnati to be the team's outside linebacker, must unseat incumbent Na'il Diggs first. Jon Beason, who overcame missing the start of training camp last year in a contract dispute to lead the team in tackles, is the anchor at middle linebacker.
``It's going to be pretty new to me having to stay the full camp this year,'' Beason said. ``I'm excited, happy to be here. I think the coaches did a good job this offseason, and I think it's a good time to be a Panther.''
Minus Stewart and Otah's contract uncertainty, the circus-like atmosphere of last season was missing on reporting day. Jenkins wasn't trotting out his personal trainer in front of the media to discuss his weight. Nobody succumbed to Jeremy Bridges' transgressions the week before camp last year and got arrested.
And Favre was nowhere to be found.
``Who knows what's going to happen there,'' Delhomme said. ``I'm glad that's not going on in our camp. So far we've been distraction free, and I think that's a big, big positive.''