Panthers’ Julius Peppers wants to be remembered for more than sacks – Carolina Panthers Blog

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Julius Peppers flashed a sheepish smile when reminded that former Carolina Panthers coach John Fox was “murdered by the national media” for selecting him instead of a quarterback with the second overall pick of the 2002 draft.

The 38-year-old defensive end smiled again when recalling the quarterback the Panthers would have taken since David Carr went No. 1 to Houston.

“It turned out pretty good,” said Peppers, still smiling.

The Panthers would have taken Oregon’s Joey Harrington, who went No. 3 to the Detroit Lions, who play host to Carolina at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. Harrington retired with a 26-50 record in six NFL seasons.

You might say it was a miserable fail.

Peppers has 157.5 sacks and is 2.5 shy of Kevin Greene (160) for third place on the NFL’s all-time sacks list, which is led by Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198). He has been selected to nine Pro Bowls and is considered a future first-ballot Hall of Fame selection.

And 17 years after being drafted, this 6-foot-7, 295-pound giant of a man is playing at a high level as was evident in his last outing, when he knocked down a pass in coverage about 20 yards from the line of scrimmage in Thursday’s 52-21 loss at Pittsburgh.

But it’s not statistics Peppers wants to be remembered for when he hangs up his cleats, whether that’s after this season or the next. He wants to be known for impacting lives — on and off the field.

That’s why it was so important for him to return to his home state in 2017 after seven seasons in Chicago and Green Bay where “personal growth, reflection” changed his outlook on life.

That’s why he has become more visibly involved in community affairs during his second stint with the Panthers as opposed to his more behind-the-scenes self during his first eight seasons.

His foundation has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the relief effort following Hurricane Florence. Peppers has visited several of the devastated areas in North and South Carolina.

He also went to a Charlotte precinct to encourage early voting for the most recent midterm election.

“You ask somebody right now who are the top two or three sack persons and they couldn’t tell you,” Peppers said. “You’re a professional and you want to perform and you want to achieve those goals.

“But being out with the people and giving back to the community, it’s going to be more impactful and long lasting.”

Selfish to selfless

Terri Stowers ran into Peppers outside the Bette Rae Thomas Recreation Center, where the defensive end was encouraging early voting, and reminded him of the time in the early 2000s he performed the coin toss before a high school football game.

“He seems to be much more involved in the community stuff this time around,” said Stowers, the director of the rec centers in Charlotte.

Peppers admits he was somewhat selfish with his time and money — but mostly his time — early in his career. He also was somewhat uncomfortable being out in public and voicing his opinion.

Not that he didn’t do anything. He just had a lower profile, hiring motivational speakers to speak at programs geared toward empowering youth and making good decisions, donating money to churches and scholarship programs.

Now he’s out front with programs such as the hurricane relief fund that he partnered with the Foundation for the Carolinas.

“When you’re a young NFL player being 22, 23 years old and having wealth and notoriety, a lot of times you think about how that can benefit you,” said Peppers’ friend, agent and adviser, Carl Carey. “It’s understandable because you’re young.

“I have watched that process for him happen. He realizes it now and sees the importance to use his name for good.”

Carey was entering the University of North Carolina as an academic adviser to Peppers before Peppers’ freshman year at UNC. The two were introduced because Peppers had been dismissed from North Carolina’s summer orientation program for missing curfew and ordering a pair of Air Jordans with his stipend money.

Peppers was so quiet at the time that Carey essentially became his spokesperson. That’s not the case anymore.

“That has been the change,” Carey said of Peppers’ more outgoing personality. “When he was younger, it’s been well-documented that he’s a reserved guy. Now he’s really found his voice.”

Carey noticed the change when Peppers left the Panthers for Chicago after the 2009 season because a new deal couldn’t be reached with Carolina. It was a change of address Peppers acknowledges was needed to help him grow, having spent his entire life in North Carolina.

“It took awhile for me to be conscious of my impact, not only on the team but in the community,” Peppers said. “I’m a little bit regretful I didn’t start doing these things earlier, but I guess it’s better late than never.”

Hall of Famer

Efe Obada, 26, never heard of Peppers growing up in Nigeria and England. When he was given the locker next to the player known by teammates simply as “Pep” he immediately did some research.

“I was amazed at all he had done,” the defensive end said.

Peppers still does amazing things. There’s no better example than the pass he broke up in the loss to Pittsburgh in which nothing seemed to go right.

“It was ridiculous,” Obada said of seeing a man Peppers’ size and age that far downfield in coverage.

“But being out with the people and giving back to the community, it’s going to be more impactful and long lasting.”

Julius Peppers, Panthers defensive end

Peppers has been making “ridiculous” plays almost since the day he entered the league. That’s why Fox never blinked at making the player with freakish size his first pick as an NFL head coach even though the need at quarterback might have been greater.

“There were some that said we didn’t get the best D-lineman on their team,” said Fox, referring to North Carolina defensive tackle Ryan Sims, who went No. 6 to Kansas City. “Some people said [Julius’] motor didn’t run all the time. What I saw was a guy that finished one sack behind the school sack record that happened to be held by Lawrence Taylor.

“He was a big reason I got to be a head coach as long as I got to. Decisions like that keep you around. There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”

In the Panthers’ locker room, Peppers is a first-ballot professional. His leadership has been as important as his performance, even though his performance has been above average with a 2018 grade of 78.2 by Pro Football Focus.

“At any given point he can still take over a game,” Pro Bowl linebacker Thomas Davis said.

But the Hall of Fame or catching Greene in sacks are not things Peppers thinks about. He’s more interested in getting the Panthers (6-3) back on track after an embarrassing loss, and already has spoken to teammates behind the scenes about regaining focus.

“I know a lot of people on the sack list are Hall of Famers, probably the top seven or eight guys,” Peppers said. “And it’s probably going to happen.

“But we’ve got other things to accomplish. And we’ve got other missions to settle. I’m more focused on that than anything post career.”

Old man?

Quarterback Cam Newton recently had a little fun with Peppers, changing the music for practice to something he thought an “old man” like his defensive end might like.

“He’ll be in my shoes one day,” Peppers said. “I don’t mind it. It’s an honor to still be here at this age and still be around these young guys. They keep me young and I’m enjoying it.”

Peppers still wants to win a Super Bowl ring, the biggest missing piece from his résumé. That’s one of the reasons he returned to Carolina, because he wants to bring a title to his home state and there’s talent here to do that.

“It’s pretty obvious, but it was real important for Julius to get back to the Panthers,” Carey said. “And he was really involved in making sure that it was known right from [when] free agency opened.”

Peppers also saw an opportunity to make an impact off the field in his return to Carolina.

His involvement with hurricane relief has been most visible. But Peppers also has a desire to push for social justice that hasn’t been nearly as visible as the efforts of safety Eric Reid, whose decision to kneel during the national anthem continues to put the spotlight on him.

Remember, Peppers stayed in the locker room during the national anthem last season when players across the league began showing their support for the awareness Reid and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick were trying to bring.

Carey says he believes Peppers’ interest in social justice and issues related to empowering youth will keep Peppers involved in community affairs long after football.

“Those are probably his two biggest areas of interests as it relates to how he plans to use his name going forward,” Carey said. “Just because he’s not saying anything doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an opinion.”

Peppers hasn’t made up his mind whether this will be his last season. He signed a one-year deal with the Panthers each of the past two seasons, so there aren’t long-term plans.

“I can do it as long as I want to,” Peppers said with a smile. “It’s just a matter of who wants me to do it.”

One thing is for sure. Peppers likes having the platform football offers him to be more active in the community.

“I’ve learned a lot,” Peppers said. “Being more compassionate. Obviously, we know people aren’t as fortunate and blessed as we are. I learned a little bit about the impact we have as professionals, and how we can help, how impactful it is for just your presence.”

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Kyle Love of Carolina Panthers angry with video

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kyle Love isn’t happy about the circulation of a video that has some saying he was asleep on the bench in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s 52-21 loss at Pittsburgh.

The video earned him a spot on ESPN’s “C’mon Man!” segment before the Monday Night Football game between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.

“He’s actually pretty pissed, ’cause he wasn’t asleep,” fellow defensive tackle Kawann Short said Tuesday as the team returned from a four-day break. “It’s just one of those things where the camera hit him on the spot when his head was down.”

Love expressed his displeasure with the video with a post on Instagram.

The 6-foot-1, 315-pound player hasn’t gotten the attention deserved for his play this season even though defensive coordinator Eric Washington cited the 31-year-old for his performance in the two games before Thursday’s loss.

“From where we stand, he’s not underrated or underappreciated,” Washington recently said. “There’s a reason why he’s here. From an outside perspective, he might not get much attention. But we know exactly what he brings to the table. And we’re excited to have those things.

“He brings a lot of energy to the table. He keeps showing up.”

Love was perhaps best known before Thursday for dealing with his diabetes while he was earning a spot on the Carolina roster in 2014. He was re-signed to a two-year, $2.2 million deal in March 2017 to be the second wave of Carolina’s four-man rotation at tackle.

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Carolina Panthers waive RB C.J. Anderson

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Any doubt that Christian McCaffrey could be an every-down back in the NFL was erased on Monday when the Carolina Panthers waived running back C.J. Anderson.

The Panthers signed Anderson to a one-year, $1.75 million deal during the offseason as insurance for McCaffrey, the eighth pick of the 2017 NFL draft.

But since McCaffrey emerged into the scheme of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner, Anderson has been almost obsolete in the game plan. He had only eight carries for 20 yards over the past five games. During the Panthers’ 6-3 start, he rushed 24 times for 104 yards and no touchdowns to go with one catch for 24 yards and a touchdown.

“When we signed C.J. in the spring, he saw a bigger role than he has had, and honestly, at the time so did we,” general manager Marty Hurney said in a team statement. “But Christian McCaffrey has taken so much of the offense and so much of the plays, we just made the decision that this was the best thing for all parties involved.”

Anderson did not ask for his release, a league source told ESPN.

In a corresponding move, the Panthers signed free-agent running back Travaris Cadet to a one-year contract.

Anderson spent his first five NFL seasons with the Broncos, rushing for a career-high 1,007 yards and three touchdowns last season. He was a 2014 Pro Bowl selection and was on the 2015 Denver team that beat Carolina in Super Bowl 50.

Anderson signed with the Panthers after his release from Denver because of the team’s commitment to a power running game.

“The style that Carolina likes to play definitely fits my style and my game,” Anderson said in May. “As far as ground and pound, the ‘Keep Pounding’ slogan Carolina uses fits well. My game is breaking tackles and finding ways to use that and make long plays.”

But with McCaffrey getting 96.35 percent of the snaps to 9.39 percent for Anderson, and Turner going with a running game that depends on McCaffrey, quarterback Cam Newton and wide receivers DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel, the Panthers decided to move on.

McCaffrey leads the team with 579 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 123 carries, and in receiving with 54 catches for 439 yards and four touchdowns.

He is showing the ability to be an every-down back as he did at Stanford, where in 2015 he broke Barry Sanders’ NCAA record with 3,250 all-purpose yards.

“Everybody has seen it,” Hurney said in a statement. “Christian is an all-around back who fits our offense perfectly. He’s a three-down player. He’s on the field all the time, and we feel really good about him.”

The waiving of Anderson means that Cameron Artis-Payne, a fifth-round pick in 2015, likely will move to the active roster on game days. Payne has been active only twice this season and has no carries.

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Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera to ask NFL about Eric Reid ejection

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera plans to ask the NFL to explain why free safety Eric Reid was ejected for a shoulder-to-helmet hit on Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the third quarter of Thursday night’s 52-21 loss.

Rivera, however, doesn’t plan to ask the league about Reid’s claim after the game to the Charlotte Observer that he was drug tested for “like the fifth time” since he was signed by Carolina in late September.

“They’re not going to catch me on anything,” said Reid, who in May filed a grievance against the NFL in which he claimed there was collusion to keep him unemployed because of his protests against social injustice during the national anthem while with the San Francisco 49ers.

Rivera said the drug testing was not a concern.

“I’ve got no issues on that,” Rivera said Friday. “That has nothing to do with what I have to deal with. I’m not in agreeance with what the decision was [on the ejection]. I get the penalty. I don’t get the ejection. I’m going to ask for an explanation as far as that’s concerned.”

The league does not administer drug tests or select those to be tested. That is done by an independent administrator.

League spokesman Brian McCarthy posted the policy on Twitter on Friday after multiple inquiries following Reid’s comments.

“Each week during the season, 10 players per club will be tested,” the policy says. “By means of a computer program, the policy’s jointly appointed Independent Administrator randomly selects before the game players to be tested.”

The league also has the right to eject a player in its effort to protect the quarterback and crack down on head injuries.

After hitting Roethlisberger at the end of a scramble, Reid was flagged for unnecessary roughness due to forcible contact to the head and neck area of a sliding quarterback.

Reid, who was subsequently disqualified from the game, said that he had no intention to hurt Roethlisberger and that he apologized to him afterward.

He agreed with Rivera that the ejection was not warranted.

But Reid seemed to take exception with again being drug tested as he took exception to being fined $10,026 by the league for his unsportsmanlike penalty during a 21-17 victory over Philadelphia.

Reid noted that Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who also was handed an unsportsmanlike penalty on the play after throwing Reid to the ground, did not get fined.

Reid also had an interception overturned in the final minutes that he felt was not justified.

Asked then whether he felt he was being slighted because of his collusion grievance, Reid said, “It’s interesting. I get fined. I got an interception overturned. We’ll see how this appeal here goes.”

Reid was the first player to join then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the anthem to protest social injustice. Kaepernick, who also filed a grievance against the league, remains unsigned.

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Steelers, Panthers set record by scoring three touchdowns in 23 seconds

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers in the first quarter of Thursday night’s game did something no two teams had done in the Super Bowl era.

They combined for three touchdowns in 23 seconds, a record for the shortest span, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The previous record for three touchdowns was 26 seconds by the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders in 2008.

The Panthers used 4:31 on their opening possession, scoring on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to running back Christian McCaffrey at the 10:29 mark.

On Pittsburgh’s first play after a touchback on the kickoff, Ben Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 75-yard touchdown that took 11 seconds.

And on Carolina’s next play from scrimmage, Newton was intercepted by linebacker Vince Williams, who returned the pick 17 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-7 with 10:05 left in the first quarter.

Pittsburgh led 31-14 at halftime, tying for the most points the Panthers have given up in a half in team history.

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Panthers’ hiring of a mental health clinician is a ‘game-changer’ – Carolina Panthers Blog

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In early August, Steve Smith revealed he had had bouts of depression while an active player with the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens. He talked about feeling “trapped, inferior and alone.”

Carolina’s all-time leading receiver spoke out after the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. Smith also referred to Brian Dawkins’ battle with depression and thoughts of suicide the Pro Bowl safety discussed in late July as he was about to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The prevalence of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses in people in all walks of life — including the NFL — led the Panthers to hire therapist Tish Guerin. She is one of the first — and currently believed to be the only — active in-house psychological clinicians in the league.

While most teams have a licensed mental health practitioner available for players and staff members on a contract basis, Guerin, 35, has an office at Bank of America Stadium. She is readily available to any player or staff member seeking help.

Being onsite also helps her observe any potential changes in the mood or behavior of a player that could be an early warning sign. It’s a step, Carolina coach Ron Rivera said, toward stressing that the mental and emotional welfare of an athlete is just as important as the physical welfare.

Safety Eric Reid is among several Carolina players who said the hire is long overdue.

“It’s something that hasn’t been taken seriously long enough,” Reid said. “We’re dealing with professionals … we bang a lot. We have to lower our guard and know saying something’s wrong isn’t a bad thing. You might not have to say it [to] somebody on the team, but you need to talk to somebody…

“It’s the right thing to do, to [hire] somebody with the education and background to know what to do when somebody is going through something.”

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, applauds the Panthers “for being forward-thinking in this area.” He said the NFL and NFLPA are working jointly on a proposal for clubs that would make behavioral and mental health issues a priority.

“One of the things you face in mental and behavioral health that you don’t face in other medicines is the concept of stigma,” Sills said. “We would like to see mental and behavioral health just as normalized so everyone recognizes the important of these issues to your overall well-being.

“Having someone that is visible and the main fabric of the organization, it really sends a message from the organization about how much they value these issues and this care.”

Nyaka NiiLampti, the director of wellness for the NFLPA, reminded that NFL teams aren’t much different from the general population in which 20 to 25 percent deal with some sort of mental health issue. She said Carolina’s hiring of Guerin is a “game-changer.”

Guerin, whose official title is director of player wellness, hopes the Panthers start a trend.

“In terms of thinking about mental wellness and making sure our warriors we see on Sunday are talking to someone, have access to be able to get things off their chest and relieve that stress in a positive way and not a negative way, that’s imperative,” she said.

“This is something I would hope to see for all teams.”

Why has it taken so long?

Steve Beuerlein was the quarterback of the Panthers in 1999 when Rae Carruth became the first NFL player charged with and ultimately convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. Beuerlein was reminded with the recent release of Carruth from prison of how much having a mental health doctor in-house could have helped back then.

“Obviously it’s a very unique profession to be a professional athlete,” Beuerlein said. “To be that young and have those kind of pressures and resources and everything else, it’s very unique.

“Definitely, we all would have benefited from having someone like that with every organization I was a part of. You might think you’re invincible and you don’t need it. But now that you’re older you see there is some value to it.”

That it has taken this long speaks to the stigma associated with mental health issues.

“My goal in coming here was to drop that stigma that if you talk to somebody that is a clinician or psycho-therapist or psychologist or psychiatrist that means you’re ‘crazy,'” Guerin said. “Sometimes you just need to speak to someone.

“It doesn’t mean something is deeply wrong with you. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It just [can be], ‘I have an issue. Hey, what do you think?'”

Rivera compared the NFL’s hesitancy to become fully involved in mental health issues to the lack of understanding people had about soldiers returning from World War I and II with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Now what’s happening is people are starting to understand more and more about mental health,” Rivera said. “People like [Smith] speaking out and creating an awareness has been very important for the professional athlete.”

New Panthers owner David Tepper played a significant role in the hiring of Guerin. He offered no resistance when Rivera, general manager Marty Hurney and Mark Carrier, who was working in player development, approached him about hiring an in-house clinician.

“It’s going to bring awareness, not just to football but to all other sports,” said Rivera, who was part of the interview process. “There are a lot of people out there and a lot of us need help.”

Dr. Chris Carr, a performance psychologist contracted by the Green Bay Packers and Indiana Pacers, said he was one of five full-time members of a Division I college athletics department in his role when he finished his Ph.D. at Washington State University in the early 1990s.

“Now over 50 to 60 schools have sports psychology and mental health provided in-house for athletes, but it’s really been the last five years where the NCAA has made it a priority,” he said. “In some ways this is a transitional shift in the culture of sports where we realize these are real issues and you need to have really good, competent providers to take care of those athletes.”


The first thing Rivera did when introducing Guerin was reassure his team. He made it clear Guerin wouldn’t come to him whenever she suspected a problem.

“She’s a professional and I know she’ll handle it the right way,” Rivera said.

Although Guerin is an employee of the team, her job falls under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects the privacy of individual health information.

So unless Guerin sees something that would make her believe the player is threatening bodily harm, everything she is told remains confidential.

“There’s a firewall, if you will,” Guerin said. “So if a player comes to me and tells me something that is going on in their home or if they’re having depression or anxiety or any other clinical diagnosis … I wouldn’t go tell that to a coach.”

For the player, that is key.

“If she did tell, I don’t think she would be employed here that long,” running back Fozzy Whittaker said. “It’s safe to say she’s looking at the player’s best interest at heart. She’s here truly to help us.”

Rookie wide receiver DJ Moore said that’s important for the players to understand.

“She’s a good getaway from getting trapped in your own mind,” he said. “It lets you get out of your own head at the end of the day.”

CTE factor

In 2012, Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his 22-year-old girlfriend, then drove to the Chiefs’ training facility and shot himself in the head with a handgun.

In a report obtained by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” there were signs that Belcher’s brain showed signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which has become a major point of conversation and research in the NFL the past few years as it relates to head trauma.

Carolina defensive tackle Kyle Love cited Belcher when arguing that NFL teams should have had an in-house clinician “years ago.”

“It’s something that hasn’t been taken seriously long enough. … We have to lower our guard and know saying something’s wrong isn’t a bad thing.”

Eric Reid, Panthers safety

“Every team should have one, because you never really know what’s going on in the mind of guys,” Love said. “They’re bringing up CTE being a big deal with football players, or athletes with high-contact sports, so you have to have somebody to check on those things because you never know what’s going on.”

While Guerin can’t diagnose concussions or CTE, she might see signs that would allow her to point the player in the direction of professionals who could help. Team physicians can also consult with Guerin.

“If a physician comes to me and says, ‘Hey, Tish, I think something is going on. He’s having some aggressive moves or I’ve seen some mood dysregulation,’ I can go have that conversation with a player to really see if there is anything there,” Guerin said.

“In terms of concussion protocol or injuries, I really will be looking to the medical team. I’m mental health. Mental wellness. If they [doctors and trainers] see something that is off, I definitely encourage them to reach out to me so I can connect to the player.”

NiiLampti said the Panthers sent a message to the rest of the league that the NFLPA has been pushing for a while.

“The tagline we use is ‘mental health is health,'” she said. “If you make that investment it’s going to come out on the back end in terms of performance as well as what their lives will look like when they’re out of the game.

“It speaks to what they’re willing to invest in their players.”

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Cam Newton, Norv Turner make Panthers serious threat in NFC – Carolina Panthers Blog

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The second-quarter play started with a fake handoff from Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to running back Christian McCaffrey up the middle. Newton then gave the ball to rookie wide receiver DJ Moore running from his left to his right. Moore then flipped to second-year wide receiver Curtis Samuel going from his right to his left.

It’ll go down in the record book as a 33-yard double-reverse touchdown run by Samuel, even though he covered 103.9 yards according to NextGen stats, zigzagging in and out of Tampa Bay defenders to the end zone.

It’ll go into the minds of future opponents as an example of just how dangerous this offense can be in the hands of Norv Turner and a group of young, dynamic toys who are developing into a scoring machine.

A week after scoring 36 points against the Baltimore Ravens and the league’s No. 1 defense, the Panthers put up a team-record 35 first-half points in Sunday’s 42-28 victory against Tampa Bay.

Granted, the Bucs came into the game ranked last in the NFL in scoring defense, giving up 33.2 points a game.

But what the Panthers (6-2) have done the past two games (and in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia when Newton engineered three touchdown drives in a 21-17 victory) has them trending toward one of the most prolific offenses in the league.

Turner deserves credit.

He has transformed Newton into an efficient passer, which makes his title as the best dual-threat quarterback in the league even more meaningful. The 2015 NFL MVP now has a personal-best seven straight games with at least two touchdown passes.

Turner also has shown how well he’s adapted to the times, going from the power-running game he had with Emmitt Smith and the Dallas Cowboys in the early 1990s to the ball-control game he had with LaDainian Tomlinson and the San Diego Chargers to the dynamic play-caller with Newton & Co.

He’s shed any image of being conservative.

“That’s part of the problem,” coach Ron Rivera said earlier in the week. “People look at those things [from Turner’s past] and say he’s a vertical attack guy all the time. Not necessarily.”

What Turner does is utilize his talent to create mismatches.

“You do look at the way he attacks people,” Rivera said. “He is looking for matchups.”

It’s taken a while for Turner’s offensive genius to show at Carolina. Remember, this is the same team that fell behind 17-0 in a loss at Washington and 17-0 at Philadelphia before the rally that might have turned this season around.

This also is a different offense now.

Samuel missed the first three games after having a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat. Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen didn’t play from the first quarter of the opener until the fifth game against Washington because of a fractured foot.

And Moore didn’t get fully implemented into the game plan until starter Torrey Smith suffered a knee injury late against the Eagles.

So Turner is just getting his full complement of weapons with a couple of games together.

That might have been lost a bit as the Panthers became conservative and lethargic in the second half. Tampa Bay capitalized to cut the lead to 35-28 before Turner went back to calling what was working in the first half.

That led to a 19-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Samuel as the Bucs were focused on all the motion underneath.

Couple Turner’s imagination with Newton’s ability to execute and a defense that — despite a second-half lull — is beginning to jell, and the Panthers have to be considered with the Los Angeles Rams (8-0) and New Orleans Saints (6-1) as the biggest threats to win the NFC.

Turner deserves much of the credit.

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Eric Reid of Carolina Panthers — Ron Rivera doesn’t have kneeling veto

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera consistently has made it clear he has no issue with safety Eric Reid kneeling during the national anthem as a protest against social injustice even if it goes against his personal beliefs having grown up in a military family.

Rivera has said repeatedly Reid simply is exercising his First Amendment rights.

“Very respectfully, he doesn’t have a choice,” Reid said on Wednesday when asked about having Rivera’s support in kneeling. “He’s entitled to his opinion, but I know what my rights are. His family was a military family much like many of my people were in the military. My cousin just got back from Afghanistan. My mom was in the armed services. My uncle was enlisted. The list goes on.

“But when they get home they’re still black in America. They’re going to fight the same wars when they get home and still face the same things I’m talking about. So I get encouragement from my family that served in the armed forces because they agree with what I’m saying.”

The Panthers (5-2) will honor the military during Sunday’s NFC South game against Tampa Bay (3-4) as part of “Salute to Service Week.”

Reid plans to kneel during the anthem just as he has the past four games since signing with Carolina. He is the only Carolina player who has taken a knee during the anthem since former San Francisco teammate Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during their 2016 season with the 49ers to protest police brutality and social injustice.

The closest the Panthers had to a protest before Reid’s arrival came during Week 3 last season when defensive end Julius Peppers stayed in the locker room during the anthem. Peppers has been on the field and standing since that game.

“Like I’ve always said about this stuff, the only time it’s a distraction is when you guys bring it up,” Rivera said of the media. “As I’ve always said, I try to keep these things separate. To me it’s about playing football. The players know how I feel about everything. It’s all about what’s going on out on the field.”

Reid said some fans have “yelled” at him in his two homes games with the Panthers. He said most of that occurs before the anthem as he’s warming up.

“Everybody is entitled to their opinion, I’m expressing mine,” Reid said. “In the stands, I’ve always heard the people yelling. When I’m in the community, when I get approached, I can honestly say I’ve not had anybody say stop kneeling in public. It’s all been supportive.”

Reid and Kaepernick both filed grievances against the NFL when they weren’t signed by another team after the 2017 season. Kaepernick remains unsigned.

The two still work together on projects to fight social awareness and make more people involved in their cause. But it many ways, since signing with the Panthers, Reid has become the voice of the two.

Reid called Philadelphia safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the founders of the Players Coalition, a “sellout” and “neo-colonialist” after the two had a heated exchange prior to their game two weeks ago.

Reid twice following Sunday’s win against Baltimore went through a lengthy answer of why it was important to call out Jenkins when a second wave of reporters approached him.

“We didn’t start protesting for the NFL’s money,” Reid said. “So when we feel like a deal was done to end what we started, we take offense to that.”

Reid said Kaepernick continues to do more behind the scenes with their “Know Your Rights Camps” that don’t get the media attention. “He might not step in front of a camera often, but behind the scenes he’s working extremely hard,” Reid said. “He meets people morning to night on a daily basis.”

While Reid is getting more comfortable in Carolina’s defense and hopes his contribution helps the team achieve its goal of reaching the Super Bowl, he doesn’t mind all the questions about his cause.

“Football is a game,” Reid said. “The A gap is the A gap. The B gap is the B gap. Every team has good players. But this is more important to me. Football is my job, but this is my life. I believe I’ve got to speak up for my people.”

Jenkins said his end game “is to make change and empower people along the way.”

He thinks of the injustices he’s personally seen and read about in American history when kneeling.

“A lot of time it’s anger, knowing the context in which that song was written during the battle, knowing the verses that were omitted from that song,” Reid said. “That song was created talking about killing slaves.”

A verse in the full version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been the focus of controversy in recent years. Some historians argue it was written in celebration of the massacre of former slaves who were fighting for the British in the War of 1812.

“I think about the history I’ve educated myself on, the people that have been lynched by the people that were supposed to protect them,” Reid said. “Just the history of my people, it all runs through my head. Just the videos I’ve seen on social media the last three or four years, it lights a fire in me.”

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Ravens face crossroads after embarrassing loss to Panthers – Baltimore Ravens Blog

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After the Baltimore Ravens were out-played, out-coached and out-everythinged in a 36-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers, the sense of urgency wasn’t just measured in what the players said. It’s where they said it.

“I just said in the shower right now, we have to win six games at least to get us to the playoffs, to the dance,” Jimmy Smith said. “That’s what we’re determined to do. No question.”

Sunday’s game against the upstart Carolina Panthers could’ve solidified their standing as a playoff team. Instead, after a midseason meltdown, the Ravens are 4-4, third place in the AFC North and at a crossroads in one of the most critical seasons in franchise history.

When a team is in the midst of a three-year playoff drought, the next two games — home against the Steelers and Bengals — will go a long way in defining this season as well as the futures of coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco.

“We’re 4-4. We’re an average team,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We just lost, got blown out, so we’re I wouldn’t say [at] rock bottom, but we’ve got to look at ourselves and get back to work.”

Two weeks ago, the Ravens were atop the division. Now, Baltimore has projected 69 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Football Power Index.

The NFL’s top-ranked defense suddenly can’t cover or get to the quarterback, especially since the thigh injury to Marlon Humphrey. The league’s No. 9 offense can’t consistently move the ball behind a beaten-up offensive line.

The pressure certainly ratchets up for Harbaugh and Flacco after an offseason in which owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged he contemplated firing Harbaugh and the Ravens drafted quarterback Lamar Jackson in the first round.

But, after playing five of their first eight games on the road, the Ravens can still right the season, albeit with a dwindling margin for error. Baltimore can make up ground in November, when the team plays host to the division-leading Steelers (4-2-1) and the second-place Bengals (5-3).

“We are obviously not in the most ideal situation possible, but we still have eight games left,” Flacco said. “I feel like we have the opportunity to play really good football. We just have to make sure to keep the focus on that. I think there is obviously a bigger threat now to let this stuff affect you mentally, let it affect the team and how we are gelling together. We just have to combat that just by being ourselves and being as tough as we possible can.”

Baltimore’s toughness was not on display at Bank of America Stadium. The Ravens got pushed around so badly that they trailed, 24-7, by halftime.

The Baltimore defense entered this game leading the NFL in fewest points and yards and topping the league in sacks. The Ravens left without sacking Cam Newton (271 total yards), giving up twice the amount of points as their season average and still appearing unsure where the Panthers’ misdirection plays were going.

Flacco and the Baltimore offense committed three turnovers and five penalties. Flacco finished 22-of-39 for 192 yards and two interceptions behind an offensive line that was without two injured starters (left guard Alex Collins and right tackle James Hurst) and lost left tackle Ronnie Stanley for nearly two series.

For a team that couldn’t get on the same page during the game, the coaches and players were in unison after the fourth-largest margin of defeat over the past three seasons.

“We got our butts kicked today,” Flacco said.

“It was definitely a punch to the gut,” guard Marshal Yanda said.

“We just didn’t have it,” Harbaugh said. “It starts with me. It’s on my shoulders completely. I take full responsibility for it. It’s one that we’ve got to put behind us and move forward to the next game.”

Unfortunately for the Ravens, this follows a troubling recent trend. Baltimore didn’t make the playoffs the past two seasons after starting strong and reaching the midway point at 4-4.

The Ravens can’t afford to slip up during their home stretch, because they have road games in December against the Kansas City Chiefs (7-1) and Los Angeles Chargers (5-2).

And the failure to beat the rival Steelers on Sunday would drop the Ravens to below .500 and 1-3 in the division.

“If we don’t perform how we want to next week, there’s definitely going to be some problems,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “Mentally and physically, we lost this game. But at the end of the day, we know what we have to do next week.”

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Rae Carruth’s son to attend Carolina Panthers game

Six days after former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth was released from prison, where he served nearly 19 years for conspiracy to commit murder, one notable person in attendance at Sunday’s NFL game at Bank of America Stadium will be Carruth’s son, Chancellor Lee Adams.

Thanks to Carolina fan Jason Underwood and the Panthers, Adams and his grandmother Saundra Adams will have field access, lower-section seating and special parking for the 1 p.m. game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Underwood informed Riley Fields, Carolina’s director of community relations, earlier in the week that he had tickets for Chancellor and Saundra Adams in the upper section. Fields, aware that Chancellor was born with cerebral palsy, upgraded them to VIP access to make it easier to get around the facility.

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