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Carolina Panthers

Foxhole: Defensive line stabilizes


Comments from Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox following the team's practice.

On injuries: Did not participate: Charles Godfrey - ankle and Brad Hoover - ankle. Limited participation: DeAngelo Williams - knee. Full participation: Tony Fiammetta - concussion, John Kasay - groin, Muhsin Muhammad - knee, Julius Peppers - hand, Dante Rosario - knee, and Jonathan Stewart - Achilles.

On how game preparation is affected by practicing indoors for two consecutive days: It's what you have to work with. It's like a schedule. If it's a hard schedule or not a hard schedule - they're all hard. You just work through it.

On if he ever remembers practicing indoors twice in the same week since he's been head coach: I can't remember. We might have, just depending on weather. Last year, we had more of a veteran team so we were able to do a little bit more in other option upstairs (at Bank of America Stadium). But this year, being a little bit younger, we had few more guys to train and give more reps to. It was more viable to go up there (Charlotte Sports Center) this year.

On how much practice is throttled back because of limitations by practicing indoors: For obvious reasons, you're limited. You can't punt the ball in there. You can't throw deep passes. But you do get some space, and our equipment people do a good job of marking it so it's somewhat like an NFL field. But it beats if it's really windy and miserable out and it's a third-down day, then it's not real conducive to preparation. Some people could go out and weather it, but the ball gets heavy and there are some negatives that go along with that. So this was the next best option.

On if the Falcons have an advantage by having an indoor practice facility on site: It's what it is.

On if defensive end Julius Peppers will wear something on his injured hand: I think everybody's got issues during the football season. I don't think anybody is 100 percent healthy, whether it's their team or our team. So everybody makes concessions.

On if Peppers' hand injury will impact his ability to do anything: It's either you're 100 percent or you're not.

On what he would like improved during the second half of the season other than the Panthers' record: We're still working to get better in our passing game, which I think is making strides. We have over the last couple of weeks. Creating turnovers on defense. Not that it's been inconsistent but to create more of those. Those are the things that come to mind.

On stability on the defensive line after it was a concern earlier in the season: To start the season, end-wise I felt (was) a comfort zone. Again, you always tweak and adjust and improve certain areas at every (position). I think the position that we've kind of completely overhauled is defensive tackle. Two (Hollis Thomas and Tank Tyler) of the three guys that are in the rotation there weren't even at camp with us. I think that's a tribute to the players involved and the coaches to get those guys trained and improved. I'm not trying to suggest that we're at some amazing level at this point but I've seen improvement.

On defensive end Charles Johnson's improvement from last year to this year: What we stress here is to improve, and I've seen steady improvement from a year ago to this year and really through each game. He's a young player that's getting better. We did have a change in defense; we did have a change in position coach; and I've seen him make headway.

On the importance of having two defensive ends like Johnson and Tyler Brayton who can move inside: It gives you versatility. We talked about it a year ago with our offensive line. We had some guys that were versatile enough to play different positions, and part of the landscape you deal with in the NFL (is) only having 45 guys on game day. That becomes paramount as far as getting guys that can play different spots. We went into a game a week ago with no fullbacks. So guys that pay attention, whether they're a tight end by trade or an offensive lineman for that matter, they understand and have athleticism enough to do those types of things.

On the progress of rookie fullback Tony Fiammetta: I think good. He's a good, young player, who up until a few weeks ago was predominantly a special teams player and then with the (Brad) Hoover injury he had to play more at fullback. Some of these guys you don't know until you try. Tyrell Sutton hadn't been in a game with us at all. I was pleasantly surprised with what he did as a fullback and I think potentially he even has some value as a running back.

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