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Foxhole: Pittsburgh still steel curtain

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

On injuries: Did not participate - Tyler Brayton (hip), Tony Fiammetta (ankle), Mike Goodson (illness) and Captain Munnerlyn (personal). Limited participation - Chris Gamble (ankle) and Armanti Edwards (illness). Full participation - Mackenzy Bernadeau (knee), Jordan Senn (knee) and Garry Williams (knee).

On if cornerback Captain Munnerlyn will practice on Wednesday: Yes, he should be back at practice tomorrow.

On preparing to play a game on a short week: Any time you have to turn around in a physical game like football it's tough. How you manage it. You're just getting your team freshened back up. The good news is you've got more time on the other end as you prepare for the next week. You just make do as far as the schedule and do everything you can to get the game plan in and still stay fresh.

On if practice is lighter or less physical this week: Yeah. Obviously, we didn't go pads and won't go pads this week. We'll modify the schedule because we are trying to get three days work into two. A lot of that is not doing too many different things from the week before and freshening the team up.

On how much the game plan can be altered in such a short amount of time: It won't be anything we don't (already) have in our schemes offensively, defensively or kicking game. But there are always wrinkles, and you do that every week. We still have two days to prepare. It's not like we're turning around in one day and changing.

On the team's focus at practice: Our focus has been outstanding, really all season. I thought the guys worked hard today and did a good job as far as some of the install we had in. I thought they practiced hard.

On the key to the running game's improvement over the last month: I would say continuity. We started off a little bit different without (right tackle Jeff) Otah in the mix and we were looking for a starting right guard even during that time. We had those shuffles and we had a couple of shuffles at running back. Over the last four or five weeks, we've had continuity in both those areas and I think that's why the improvement.


On the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense: They're historically good. I think (defensive coordinator) Dick LeBeau does as fine of job as anybody in the league, and they've got good players doing it. They're (ranked) top five in defense in the National Football League and they've always been salty on the run, so it will be tough duty.

On why the special teams starters were announced during player introductions against the Arizona Cardinals: A lot of times they're unsung heroes and a lot of those guys never get that opportunity. It was actually kind of amusing watching some of them come through the smoke. Other than a chuckle, I think it was a nice gesture to recognize them and let them come out as starters being introduced, in particularly at your home field.

On the improvement of special teams compared to last season: It's like everything - you show me a good coach and I'll show you good players. We did make an attempt to improve some of the types of players. Unfortunately, we lost a couple of them, guys like Wallace Wright and (Aaron) Francisco. But Marcus Hudson has been very good there. Jordan Senn, who we picked up late in the season a year ago, he's been a stalwart there. So we've had some players step up in a big way, and I think we've shown improvement there.

On the appreciation that the players on the team have for one another: Every time you cross that line there is a special bond. These guys risk physical injury to go out there. They all work very hard - offseason, in-season. It's no mystery that we've had our struggles as far as the fun part, and that's when you win. But they've hung together and they continue to work and improve.

On the Rooney rule and if there are any minorities on the Panthers coaching staff that deserve to be interviewed for a head coaching job in the NFL: The whole thing of becoming a head coach, there is a lot of luck involved. As far as African-Americans, there are a lot of outstanding coaches, a lot of outstanding assistant coaches in this league that are deserving. Unfortunately, there are only 32 of these things on the planet, so not everybody is going to get that chance. But there a lot of worthy coaches on this staff and staffs around the National Football League.

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