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Carolina Panthers

Strickly Panthers: Edwards holds out hope


SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Defensive tackle Ron Edwards hasn't given up on playing for the Panthers this season, but unfortunately he's currently more focused on scheduling surgery for his torn triceps muscle than he is on the game schedule.

"It's very, very disappointing, especially with the great group of young guys here to be a part of. It's a real downer," Edwards said. "But you've just got to keep plugging at it. I can't mope around and bring everyone else down.

"I'm just going to try to get back as fast as possible. That's my frame of mind right now."

Edwards, signed as an unrestricted free agent July 30, suffered the injury in his first practice Thursday, when the NFL's league year began and free agents were first allowed to practice.

"All I remember is it going numb," he said. "I just finished out the practice with it, and then I woke up the next morning with it swollen up. I went to the trainers, and they said, 'Tricep.' "

Edwards, a projected starter, didn't miss a single game during his five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. The 11-year veteran may see his streak of 80 consecutive games come to an end, but he doesn't plan on pulling a disappearing act.

"I'm still in the room. I'm not going anywhere," he said. "I'm still communicating with the young guys, letting them know that everything is going to be cool, that they're going to be all right."

PRESEASON OPENER TICKETS: Less than 1,600 tickets remain for the Panthers' preseason opener Saturday night against the New York Giants at Bank of America Stadium.

Fans have the chance to see No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton in his first NFL game and can also check out the team's other new additions like linebacker Omar Gaither, a Charlotte native.

Tickets can be purchased one of four ways: Online at, Ticketmaster Charge-By-Phone (1-800-745-3000), Ticketmaster Ticket Centers and the Bank of America Stadium Ticket Office.


A LEG UP FOR LEGEDU: Wide receiver Legedu Naanee doesn't just know the Panthers offense; he knows he can thrive in it.

Naanee, signed as an unrestricted free agent Saturday, played in a similar offense in San Diego his first four years in the league. Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski was the Chargers' assistant head coach and tight ends coach the past two seasons, and Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was on the defensive side of the ball the last three years.

"I had a couple of opportunities, but I was intrigued by this one because of Coach Rivera and Coach Chud as well as getting to work with a guy like Steve (Smith) who has been an elite receiver for so long," Naanee said. "It's very similar. Chud has a few variations, and terminology-wise he's changed some things up, but as far as the whole system, it's pretty much the same thing."

Naanee came into his own in the system last season, when he started nine games and caught 23 passes for 371 yards. He hopes to pick up where he left off with the Panthers.

"With the other receivers not really knowing what's going on yet and me being able to help out with the nuances of the offense, I'm looking to take advantage of that and have a big year," he said. "It's exciting."


BY THE BOOK: In the opinion of one longtime game official, the NFL has made things safer for players while also making it easier for officials to get the call right with its latest round of rule changes.

"As you can see, the emphasis is again on player safety," said Richard Reels, a back judge entering his 19th NFL season, after showing the NFL's official video on 2011 rules change at training camp.

Four of the five rules changes and three of the four points of emphasis relate to player safety. Of the seven items relating to player safety, six of them are designed to further protect players, while one responds to concerns that the attempt to protect had gone too far.

New rules expand the definition of what a "defenseless player" is and make it illegal to hit or launch into a defenseless player. Points of emphasis involving player safety include enforcement of chop blocks, clips and the horse-collar tackle rule, as well as the rule prohibiting ballcarriers from grabbing a defensive player's facemask.

In addition, a new rule moving the kickoff from the 30-yard line up to the 35 - and requiring kickoff coverage players to be within 5 yards of the 35 as the kicker approaches the ball - was added with safety in mind.

The one rule change in the other direction eliminated penalties for a glancing or incidental blow to the head by a pass rusher on the quarterback. Only forcible blows will be penalized this season.

Reels said that the other rule change and point of emphasis should make it easier for officials to do their job well. Beginning this season, all scoring plays will be reviewed by the replay booth, which will signal down to ask the referee to step to the sideline and review the play if it's in question.

In the past, coaches had to decide - sometimes before they were able to see a replay – whether to throw a challenge flag. Now, they can save their challenges for other situations.

"When the coaches could challenge, when we had something that we thought might be a controversy, we sort of delayed getting the ball snapped to give them a chance to challenge it," Reels said. "I'm sure it's probably a relief for the coaches, because they really have no say-so now.

Reels also said the NFL's definition of a catch – a point of emphasis this season – makes consistent accuracy more achievable. The rule hasn't changed, but the NFL clarified that a receiver must either be in position to perform a football move (i.e. run with the ball) for it to be a catch, or if they go to the ground during the catch, they must maintain total control of the ball.

More help may be on the way for officials as well. They'll again experiment with adding an eighth official – a deep judge – in some preseason games this year, including the Panthers' opener Saturday against the New York Giants at Bank of America Stadium.

ROSTER ROUNDUP: The Panthers claimed guard Bryant Browning, a 6-4, 312-pound rookie from Ohio State, off waivers from the St. Louis Rams and waived/injured linebacker Kelvin Smith.

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