Panther Paw Prints: Friday Edition

We've got a full basket of warm and fluffy Paw Prints today Panther fans. Let's get started.

I've spent a little time over on the SBN patriots site Pats Pulpit and must admit I'm finding the Patriots 'Late-Gate' controversy both amusing and a bit of deja vue: :

Late-Gate: Adalius Thomas Sounds Off; Personifies Why Guaranteed Contracts are a Bad Idea - Pats Pulpit
Adalius Thomas was the first of the infamous four late Patriots to talk to the media about yesterday's disciplinary measure taken by the head coach. He was clearly agitated by it and professed to be "dumbfounded" at the heavy consequence of being nine minutes late on a snowy New England morning. As he said separately to Albert Breer, "I mean, I could've been in a ditch. They really don't give a damn. Hey, as long as you aren't in that meeting, they really don't give a (bleep)."

Does anyone else see similarity in Thomas comments and those of Kris Jenkins a couple years back? We might have some disgruntled and therefore distracted players opposite us on Sunday. We need whatever advantage we can get, no matter how slight. Steve Smith tries to weigh in on it but his internal muzzle keeps it bland:

Panthers' Fox, Smith weigh in; other Pats notes
"It depends on the state of the team," Smith said. "If it’s a team that maybe hasn’t done as well as they think they should have, and you kind of do something a little outrageous, and they say, 'Oh, that’s what sparked it, and that was great.' And then if it goes the opposite direction, you have people that are going to say it wasn’t very good. I think it really just depends on the outcome."

Pictured: Patriots WR Wes Welker practices picking himself up off the turf in preparation for a visit from the Panthers!

So how spoiled are Patriots fans? They have the #2 offense in the NFL for Yards per game yet you still see headlines like this:

Patriots Offense Still Searching for Answers Through 12 Games - New England Patriots -
The most logical place to look is the sideline. Quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien is calling the offensive plays, and he seems to be suffering to find a rhythm in his first year with that responsibility. It's a transition year for the Patriots in that sense, as Josh McDaniels held that job from 2006-08 before departing last offseason to become Denver's head coach.

If Jeff Davidson could only crack the top 10 we would be ecstatic. So would Steve Smith, who is doing his best to keep from voicing his opinion about the Panthers offense:

Darin Gantt's Panthers Blog | The Herald - Rock Hill, SC
"It’s not too hard for me to say we are a running team first. That’s what we try to be. That’s what we are. We have two good running backs — three, four good running backs — and that’s what we do. But at the end of the day, run first or whatever you want to do, when we really need a big play downfield, in a hurry, they have to go to 89. So I don’t worry about it too much. I just keep coming back for some reason."

I imagine it has something to do with the dollar bills. Speaking of dollar bills, DE Tyler Brayton has been worth every dollar bill thrown his way. Did anyone really expect him to lead the d-line in tackles this season?

Brayton's found a quieter home with the Panthers | The Herald - Rock Hill, SC
"I would love to stay here," he said. "I think my heart would be broken if they didn't want me to come back or if whatever happened. I know this is still a business. I completely understand that. I feel like I have a lot of unfinished business here. I feel like God wants me to be here. "I just feel strongly about the men who are in this locker room, the men who are leading us on the field. I just feel like there's a lot of unfinished business left here for myself."

I couldn't agree more Tyler, there is some serious unfinished business in Charlotte. DT Maake Kemeatu says he will be 100% come training camp next year [must resist urge to joke about making it through one practice] - Panthers DT Kemoeatu says he will be 100 percent by training camp
Taking this year off has put another 3-5 years on my career," he said. "... Most football players, they take a couple months off or some just a couple of weeks (when they get hurt), and they're back at it again. Their body never gets to fully recover." Kemoeatu's contract has a provision in it that will make him a free agent after the 2010 season if his $9.3 million option bonus for 2010 is declined in March. It's expected that the team will decline that option, but could it decide to part ways with Kemoeatu this offseason instead? "Could they (cut him)? Might they? Yeah, anybody might," said Vierra. "It's a 30-year-old guy with a torn Achilles. Is it a concern? Anybody would be dishonest if they said it's not some concern. Will he play again? I'm not concerned about that. I know he'll play again."

How much again? $9.3M! I'm guessing an extension will be in the offing that kicks some of that money down the road. Unlike 2009 the Panthers will have a ton of options at DT come 2010.

I distinctly remember remarking last season how lucky we were to have the same defensive starters for the first 14 games. This 2009 season shows why we were 'lucky'. We will start our 13th straight different line-up on D versus the Patriots.

Despite massive shuffling, defense has persevered for Panthers | The Herald - Rock Hill, SC
"You've got to keep rolling and just have guys come in and catch up with the system," Lewis said. "That's the only way you can do it. You can't alter your playbook for certain offenses just because you may be short a guy here and a guy there. You need to get those guys caught up to speed and try to get them on the level with everybody else."

I want to say new DL coach Brian Baker has done a good job with his adjustments but I'm just not convinced yet.

What I will say is that if the Patriots run the ball more than they pass it Sunday, at least in the first half, then the Panthers have a shot.

Focus on Carolina: Panthers @ Patriots - Pats Pulpit
Bill, if you're listening, DO NOT ABANDON THE RUN GAME. Pound the rock and pound it hard. Send Laurence Maroney in as point and keep the ball on the ground. Carolina has a very good passing D and it simply doesn't make sense to try and exploit something that may give us trouble, especially when it hasn't been one of our strong suits of late.

In this scenario the Panthers should be able to keep the game close and hope that just a couple big plays will squeak out a victory. 

Oh, and if you haven't already done it check out the Blogger Q&A link over on the Pulpit. Q&A threads are usually interesting and this one is no exception. I'll give you a hint, they are not happy sitting at 7-5.

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