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Strickly Panthers: Hairy situation

!CHARLOTTE - Running back DeAngelo Williams will be sporting a different hairstyle when the Panthers visit the Houston Texans on Sunday – one that should prevent opponents from locking in on his locks.

"That's why it's braided now," Williams said Thursday while confirming that he was pulled down by his hair on a tackle in last Sunday's game versus the Atlanta Falcons. "That's two times – the Detroit game and last week."

In both cases, game officials believed that Williams was the victim of a horse-collar tackle when in reality he was tackled by his hair. A horse-collar tackle is cause for a 15-yard penalty; a tackle by the hair is considered to be a legal play.

"The hair is considered part of the uniform," Williams explained. "It's an iffy call because when you see a guy go down, you don't always know if he got the hair or he got the shoulder pads."

To further complicate matters, Williams didn't draw a penalty on the play against the Falcons because even though officials wrongly thought it was a horse-collar tackle, it happened inside the tackle box.

Even though a horse-collar tackle has been designated as illegal since 2006 with player safety in mind, a horse-collar inside the tackle box remains a legal play.

"I actually learned something – that you can horse-collar inside the tackles. I didn't know that. I thought a horse-collar was a horse-collar, no matter where it was on the field," Williams said. "It doesn't seem like it protects the running backs, but that's not my call. Hopefully, we can push toward horse-collars being a fineable and illegal offense followed by a flag."

In the meantime, Williams is taking a step toward avoiding a painful take-down with his new hairstyle. He can't do anything to prevent a horse-collar tackle, but he can protect against a hair pull.

HIGHLIGHT REEL: When Williams and some teammates finished a drill following practice Thursday, they quickly huddled with running backs coach John Settle and broke the huddle with the chant, "Make plays!"

It's a battle cry for every player on the roster this week, one that head coach Ron Rivera emphasized earlier in the week.

"I showed the guys a tape where somebody along the line made a play," Rivera said. "It was somebody different every time – whether it was on a kickoff, a touchdown catch, a touchdown run, a sack, a safety, an interception, a recovered fumble.

"That was shown with the purpose of letting these guys know that they have the ability, that they can be a good football team."

The Panthers hope that next week they can simply pop in the Texans tape and get the same effect.

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PUTTING IT ON THE LINE: In a Week 13 victory at Tampa Bay, offensive lineman Travelle Wharton left the game when his back tightened up on him.

A week later, he moved from his left guard spot to left tackle to fill in for injured starter Jordan Gross.

That's a possibility again this week with Gross still out of practice with an ankle injury.

"That's part of the job," Wharton said. "You have to be prepared at every moment to do what it takes. This is a team, so it's whatever it takes."

THAT'S THE TICKET: Wide receiver Brandon LaFell, a native of Houston, had so many requests for tickets to Sunday's game that he decided to put about 50 friends and family in a suite.

Rookie right tackle Byron Bell, a native of Greenville – less than 300 miles from Houston – had his share of requests as well but decided to take a different approach.

"We're going to keep it at a minimum," Bell said. "I'm just excited to see my mom and my brothers - that's the main key right there."

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