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Carolina Panthers

Notebook: Jaycee Horn's injury frustrating for him, and teammates

230910 @ ATL In Game Edits-447

ATLANTA — Panthers cornerback Jaycee Horn dressed slowly by his locker, already hooked to a medical device to begin his recovery process. He shook his head and said he was "sore" but didn't want to talk more about the injury that knocked him out of the Panthers' regular-season opener.

He left the game just before halftime with a hamstring injury and did not return, a frustrating start to the season for the former first-round pick.

And while he didn't have much to say, his teammates were frustrated for him, knowing the narrative after the 24-10 loss to the Falcons would be about another injury.

"It becomes very tough, becomes very tough man," cornerback Donte Jackson said of the prospect of playing without Horn. "Just knowing the type of guy he is, and knowing how bad he wants it, how hard he works, and he never does anything wrong, you know what I'm saying?

"He's always a great professional. He's always doing everything that he's supposed to do to be out there."

Of course, Jackson knows the issue that comes with that, the reason it's so frustrating. Since Horn missed most of his rookie year with a broken foot, and an important game late last year with a broken wrist (which he planned to cast up and play the following week if the playoffs were on the line), there's a bit of a trend.

"That's why it sucks, man," Jackson said. "Because you see a guy like him, who constantly goes overboard to take care of his body, and then he gets told he's injury prone, and he gets told that he can't stay healthy and stuff.

"But like behind the scenes, you know, you see how hard he actually works to be out there. And it just sucks because he'll never have that narrative not on his name. And it just sucks, man. It sucks for him. He's such a great player, such a great professional, and you just hate to see it. You just hate to see it."

Panthers head coach Frank Reich didn't have any update on the injury after the game.

Horn was replaced by CJ Henderson, who was on the other end of a late pass interference penalty. It was declined since Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts caught it anyway, and the Falcons scored their lone non-turnover-assisted touchdown on that drive.

— When the Panthers put together the roster, one of the things that was evident was the lack of a true short-yardage option to go to since they have a small quarterback in Bryce Young who isn't going to sneak it.

So in the first quarter, when faced with a third-and-1 at the Falcons 11, they handed it to wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr.. At 6-1, 220 pounds, he's the closest they have to a big back, but he was stopped for no gain. On fourth-and-1, they chose to go for it, handing it to 210-pound Chuba Hubbard, who was stopped for a loss.

It was an aggressive call early in the game when a field goal would have given them a 3-0 lead. But Reich said the distance to gain made it a call he wanted to make.

"It was pretty clear because it was really short; it was a kind of a short-yard," Reich said. "With the play that we felt good about. And although I'm not going to just be a chart guy, it was a very strong go on the charts."

— Reich appeared puzzled by the explanation of the fourth-quarter offsetting penalties on a punt return by Ihmir Smith-Marsette.

After Smith-Marsette was dragged down from behind, the Falcons were called for a horse collar tackle penalty. But when Panthers cornerback Troy Hill was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for blocking out of bounds, the ball was placed at their own 1-yard line instead of kicking it over.

"I assumed it was a re-kick, you know, two offsetting penalties," Reich said. "They explained it to me. They took a long time looking it up and getting confirmation. It doesn't come up much. It's an odd rule, or not odd, but it is what it is.

"I think it was because they were both personal fouls; if I'm remembering what they said to me, that's what made it a different category."

— Aside from the result, it was a solid debut for Ejiro Evero's new 3-4 defense.

The Panthers held the Falcons to just 221 yards, and only 91 of those came through the air. They sacked Desmond Ridder four times (all in the first half) and limited the Falcons to 2-of-10 third-down conversions.

On a day when three turnovers didn't lead to 17 Falcons points, those would be numbers to hang their hats on.

But linebacker Shaq Thompson went back to the Brian Burns sack strip early, which Ridder fell on, and a play in which Frankie Luvu punched the ball away from Bijan Robinson in the fourth quarter, but the Falcons recovered (it was also called back on a holding penalty on the Falcons).

"I felt like we did great," Thompson said. "They did a great job creating three turnovers, we had two that we didn't come up with one. Frankie had one that we should have come up with. We've just got to do a little better tackling, but overall, I feel like we always get better."

Between that and the opportunities created by the sacks, Thompson sees room for improvement.

"We got the guys up front who could definitely get the penetration," he said. "Burns had probably three out of the four, the strip sack. You can tell he's hungry, you know what I mean? And we could definitely play off of that and we definitely did. We've just got to come with turnovers.

"Like I said, we had two that we didn't come up with and that could have been the difference of the game."

— Reich made several references to digesting the tape before he made many declarations after the season-opening loss, but he was clear that they weren't going to brush it aside before they started preparing for next Monday's game against the Saints.

"Every one of us players and coaches should be hard on yourself in the next 24 hours," Reich said. "It should not taste good, and we need to eat every bit of it; otherwise you don't learn and get better from it.

"So, we've got to feel the disappointment and the hurt, but not just feel it; we've got to figure out how to get better. And, I believe we'll do that as a team."

See the Panthers warm up before their Week 1 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.

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