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Dayton Fliers: Cure for injuries

Posted Sep 30, 2011

The bottom of an NFL roster is like the medicine you forgot about until you are ill and in need of a rapid cure.

The Panthers defense was sick last week and taking on water (literally and figuratively). Thomas Davis had joined fellow linebacker Jon Beason on injured reserve, leaving James Anderson as the only starter at the position from the beginning of the season.

Safety Charles Godfrey was out with a concussion, and when cornerback Chris Gamble suffered a blow to the head, half of the Panthers starting secondary was missing as well.

The cure the Panthers devised speaks volumes about the nature of the NFL. Williams and Williams may sound like a law firm, but their namesakes - Thomas Williams and Jason Williams – acted as a tourniquet that along with Dan Connor and Omar Gaither stopped the bleeding at linebacker.

It was not a surprise that Jordan Pugh could step in for Godfrey because he already had been doing so in nickel situations through the first two games, but Gamble's replacement, Darius Butler, had been on the roster for less than three weeks after spending two seasons in New England.

That they all performed well enough to help hold the Jaguars to 257 yards and one touchdown calls for compliments on several fronts.

First, to the players themselves for being ready when called upon.  Second, to the coaches who prepared them. And third to general manager Marty Hurney, director of pro scouting Mark Koncz and the pro scouts for seeing something in them when others didn't.

Thomas Williams' career has stretched up and down the East Coast like U.S. Route 1. A fifth-round draft pick in 2008, he had already been waived by four teams - Jacksonville, Buffalo, New England and Seattle - before signing with Carolina last December. Sunday, it was Williams who deflected the pass to ensure Carolina's victory against the team that drafted him.

Jason Williams came to the Panthers as a waiver claim in the dark days of November as a forgettable season was winding down. Starting for Davis, he finished second to Anderson as the Panthers' leading tackler against Jacksonville.

Butler, like the Williamses, is a reclamation project, having been claimed off waivers from New England after the preseason. He brought the pedigree of a second-round draft choice, but not enough performance to stay in New England.

Offensive stars Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Steve Smith and Jonathan Stewart eventually carried the Panthers to their game-winning drive, but without the surprising supporting cast on defense, it might not have made the difference.

Unsung players who found their way to the Panthers with no fanfare proved to be just the right medicine.

Director of Communications Charlie Dayton has worked 34 years in the NFL. Before joining the Panthers in 1994, he was VP of Communications for the Washington Redskins. Dayton has worked on the NFL media staff for 25 Super Bowls, is a past winner of the Horrigan Award and was recently recognized with the National Association of Black Journalists Merit Award.