Strickly Panthers: D-Line hunting sacks

CHARLOTTE – No one realistically thought the Panthers could keep up the sack numbers they produced in the preseason, a pace ahead of the NFL single-season record for sacks.

Still, the Panthers know they can't afford to keep up their recent pace either.

After leading the NFL with 19 sacks in four preseason games, Carolina is tied for the last in league with one sack in two regular season games.

"When the quarterback drops back to pass or he's in the shotgun, there has to be a guy in his face," defensive end Everette Brown said. "He has to have some kind of pressure, something to keep him uneasy.

"You've got to look at the man in the mirror. That's the first thing I did because I hold myself accountable to being effective on every play, especially on passing downs."

Despite the lack of sacks – one against Eli Manning and the New York Giants in Week 1 and none against elusive quarterback Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2 -- Brown believes the Panthers are again headed in the right direction.

"The first game, I don't think we did that effectively," Brown said. "The second game, we got a lot of pressure and had the quarterback running from sideline to sideline, so were we trying to catch him. He was able to make plays on his feet.

"So that leaves one thing to do, and that's to get the quarterback on the ground."

The Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Cincinnati Bengals – who visit Carolina on Sunday – all have one sack, on the earliest of paces to finish with fewer sacks than the record-setting 10 by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008.

The Panthers' 19 sacks over four preseason games would have translated to 76 over a 16-game regular season, four more than the NFL record of 72 by the Chicago Bears in 1984.


INJURY UPDATE: Rookie wide receiver Brandon LaFell said that the hamstring injury that caused him to be inactive in Week 2 has been hampering him before his pro timing day at Louisiana State in March.

"This has to be the most nagging injury I've had," said LaFell, who returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday. "I will feel good for a couple of weeks, and then I'll make a move or do something.

"With the treatment I've been getting and the training I've been doing, hopefully, this is the last time I'll feel this way."

Linebacker Thomas Davis said he ran pain-free for the first time Thursday, and he's remaining positive about the possibility of being healthy enough to play this season.

In June, Davis tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee for the second time in seven months. He's currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list and won't be eligible to play or practice until Week 7.

Davis said he'd wear a brace for support for the rest of the year, something he wishes he'd been wearing when he re-injured the knee.

"It was my choice. It was based on how I felt," Davis said. "It's just one of those things that happened. I can't dwell on it."


DEATH FELT IN LOCKER ROOM: This time last week, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn thought there was a good chance he'd see his former University of South Carolina teammate Kenny McKinley when the Panthers host the Bengals on Sunday.

Monday, however, Munnerlyn and the rest of the football community received the stunning news that McKinley, a Denver Broncos wide receiver, had been found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

"I can't believe it," said Munnerlyn, who had phoned McKinley after spotting him during television coverage of the Gamecocks' game Sept. 11 against Georgia. "He said, 'I'm on IR this year, so I'm going to come to a game and check you out.'

"Actually, he was telling me that he was going to come check me out this week because we play against Jonathan Joseph, who went to South Carolina, too. He was like, 'I'm going to come check you boys out.' That's the last time I heard from him."

Rookie Eric Norwood, who played with McKinley at South Carolina and knew him in high school, also is trying to deal with the unfortunate news.

"It's a sad situation, but he left so many positive memories that you can't think about the bad part," Norwood said. "He made a lot of people smile. When you think of him, you start smiling."


ROSTER UPDATE: The Panthers added wide receiver Marcus Henry to the practice squad Thursday. He attended training camp with the New York Jets and was waived during the preseason.

Henry spent the last two seasons on the Jets' practice squad after being selected in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL Draft by New York. He made the team's initial 53-man roster as a rookie and was inactive for the first two games before joining the team's practice squad.

To make room for Henry, the Panthers waived running back Josh Vaughan from the practice squad.

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