05/02/05 — Panthers seem content with wideout situation

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Panthers seem content with wideout situation

By Wire
Published in Sports on May 2, 2005 2:02 PM

CHARLOTTE (AP) -- When the Carolina Panthers were forced to release Pro Bowl wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, it appeared the team would have to fill a gaping hole in its receiving corps.

Instead, the Panthers appear content to play with what they have.

Carolina didn't use any of its 10 draft picks on receivers and didn't sign any free agents other than Eugune Baker, a journeyman with little game experience. In fact, the Panthers' biggest new addition at receiver is an old face: Steve Smith, who missed nearly all of last season with a broken leg.

Smith had a stellar 2003 season to help the Panthers reach the Super Bowl, and could be the guy charged with replacing the bulk of Muhammad's NFL-best 1,405 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2004.

Smith leads a group of receivers that includes second-year player Keary Colbert and veteran Ricky Proehl.

"Granted, we lost 'Moose,"' Panthers head coach John Fox said at rookie minicamp. "He was a guy that was a very productive player for us a year ago, but we gained Steve Smith, who was a very productive guy (in 2003).

"I think Keary Colbert stepped in and did a very good job. He is a guy that we think definitely fits in a starting role. As time moves forward, we will have a better idea. But I don't view that position as a weakness."

Quarterback Jake Delhomme didn't sound too worried about it either. When asked whether the Panthers were thin at receiver, Delhomme said, "No, I really don't.

"And honestly, that's not my job. Whoever is out there, we're going to play with, and I certainly don't think we are lacking in that department. But if someone else is brought in, they'll have their work cut out for them. You'll be hard-pressed to find three guys who can do what Ricky, Smitty and Keary can do."

The Panthers could also get a boost if Drew Carter continues to perform like he did during Sunday's workout. Carter was a fifth-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2004, but missed last season with a torn left anterior cruciate ligament.

It was his third serious knee injury. Carter tore his right ACL in his final season with the Buckeyes, and missed the 2001 season with a torn left ACL.

Carter -- who made two great grabs during Sunday's practice -- could battle with Proehl for the No. 3 receiver spot.

"With Drew, it's a matter of physically getting healthy," Fox said. "I think he had an excellent surgery. He's rehabbed very well and he looked really good out here."

Among the other receivers on the roster are veteran Karl Hankton, known more for his work on special teams, and Taylor Stubblefield, an undrafted rookie from Purdue.

"We have some young guys," Delhomme said. "Drew Carter shows he has some ability. He's just a rookie, so he'll take some time. But we'll go from there, and I'm happy with what we have."