Strickly Panthers: Great Weigh Off Pays Off

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Carolina Panthers dished out a heaping helping of goodwill Friday – on a grand scale.

Five members of the Panthers' offensive line and 18 players for the New Birth Vikings of the City of Spartanburg Youth Football League stepped onto the scales for the "The Great Weigh Off Pay Off," an event that resulted in a $3,595 donation to the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen from Carolina Panthers Charities.

The Vikings were the joyous victors in the Souper Bowl of sorts, weighing in at a combined 1,987 pounds to beat the Panthers' total weight of 1,608, but the soup kitchen was the real winner, receiving a dollar for every pound.

The donation will boost the kitchen's continued efforts to feed approximately 550 people a day in addition to providing medical and clothing assistance to less fortunate families in the area.

After eight Vikings had weighed against Panthers tackles Jordan Gross and Geoff Schwartz, the Panthers led by a single pound, 652-651. The Vikings, however, brought out their big guns next, with four Vikings outweighing guard Travelle Wharton and center Ryan Kalil, 636-633.

The Vikings' depth then turned it into a blowout, with Panthers guard Mackenzy Bernadeau at 323 pounds proving no match for the remaining six Vikings who totaled 700 pounds.

"It's hard to measure heart," said Panthers director of community relations Riley Fields, "but you can measure weight."

CHANGING STRIPES: The latest round of NFL rules with player safety in mind could result in more flags for the upcoming season, and the league also has made a change with the safety of the flag-bearers in mind.

Four of seven rules changes discussed by officials working the Panthers training camp revolve around player safety.

The rules changes to protect the players are highlighted by one that states that when a ballcarrier loses his helmet, the play will be ruled dead at that spot.

The rules also add 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalties for initial contact in the head and neck area made with any player considered defenseless, as well as for a tackler launching himself and making first contact in the head and neck area of a player not in position to protect himself after just catching the ball. Also, personnel on kick-block teams can not line up any part of their bodies in front of the long snapper in kicking situations – which would result in a 5-yard penalty for an illegal formation.

The league's points of emphasis for 2010 also focused on safety and sportsmanship but also addressed a change to the officials' alignment. Outside of the final two minutes of each half, the umpire – who traditionally stands near the linebackers on the snap – will instead line up on the offensive side in an effort to decrease collisions between players and officials.

"It is going to be a challenge," said Jeff Bergman, a line judge in his 20th season in the NFL. "We're going to have to increase powers of observation to be able to make sure that no one is able to gain an unfair advantage, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

"Hopefully before the regular season, we'll have modified coverages where all the line judges and head linesman all can utilize the same coverages to minimize any holes in the coverage."

The other rules changes made by the league include the widely discussed changes to overtime in the playoffs, namely that unless the receiving team scores a touchdown on the first possession, both teams must have an opportunity to score.

Two other rules impact the administration of penalties. A dead-ball foul at the end of the first half or end of regulation now will be enforced at the beginning of the second half or beginning of overtime, eliminating "untimed downs" as a option. Also, rather than accessing a 15-yard penalty when a player interferes with the ability of a punt returner who has called for a fair catch to field a muffed punt before it hits the ground, the penalty will simply give the receiving team the ball at the spot of the foul.

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