Now, Panthers lose their best receiver

MIKE GANTER,QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:26 PM ET

TORONTO - The Carolina Panthers can’t seem to catch a break.

It took them a full season to realize Jake Delhomme was a bigger hindrance than he was worth, only to hand the job to Matt Moore who turned out to be Delhomme in a different jersey.

Young Jimmy Clausen now has the reins and while he is showing incremental improvement over the past two — at least he’s not throwing interceptions in threes —­ it looks now like he’ll be without his best receiver for at least the foreseeable future.

Steve Smith has what the Panthers are calling an ankle sprain and the early indications are it’s not a mild one.

This was the conversation between Smith and a beat writer from the Charlotte Observer.

“Go next week? I’m just trying to walk to the bus,” Smith said. “I’m having trouble walking. Is it serious? I can’t walk. That’s pretty serious. It hurts to walk.”

That sound you heard was groan No. 345 of the season from head coach John Fox.

Unhappy reunion

There was a time that the mention of Laurence Maroney brought to mind the phrase unrealized potential.

But now with the Denver Broncos Maroney is shaping up to be the poster boy for never-realized potential.

Maroney has always had the reputation for being a guy who would rather run side to side than straight ahead, but his past weekend he didn’t even manage that.

Maroney, still only 25, gained all of five yards in 11 carries in the Broncos’ win over Tennessee, not to mention a costly red-zone fumble. In his only other game for Denver, Maroney gained 24 yards on 12 carries.

The former first-round pick of the Patriots was brought to Denver by Josh McDaniels, who was his offensive co-ordinator in New England — but this reunion does not appear to be going that well.

Call on the ’Cat

How bad is the quarterback situation in Arizona? Head coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked what he had planned for the upcoming week at a press conference on Monday. “I think we’re going to go without one this week ... all Wildcat.” No one is 100% sure he was joking.

Cadillac with no finish

Apparently the payoff for this Cadillac is small change. Bucs running back Cadillac Williams has apparently had his role in short yardage and in goal-line situations taken away. Those touches will now go to LeGarrette Blount, a guy head coach Raheem Morris likens to former Bucs short-yardage back Mike Alstott.

Dropping like flies

Remember the off-season when the Washington Redskins had Larry Johnson, Willie Parker and Clinton Portis all vying for touches out of the ’Skins backfield? Parker and Johnson were both cut and now Portis is dealing with a groin injury. Even before that injury, Ryan Torain was making major inroads in terms of playing time and that would only appear to become a better situation with Portis on the limp.

Back in dry dock

Darren McFadden was on the way to finally giving the Oakland Raiders a substantial return on their first-round investment. But it appears now that the Raiders will have to get by without the vastly improved back for a little while. McFadden, who came into this weekend averaging 115 yards a game, pulled up with a right hamstring injury during the 31-24 loss to Houston. According to reports out of Oakland yesterday, McFadden was “moving rather stiffly” in the Raiders’ locker room but those reports had no definitive on his status for the upcoming week. Hamstring’s being the fickle injury that they are, bet on seeing a lot more Michael Bush and no McFadden for at least this weekend.

The Prodigal Son

Arian Foster was in Gary Kubiak’s bad books, but it wasn’t for very long.

“We all have responsibilities, and he neglected some of his,” Kubiak said after benching Foster for most of the first half when he was late for a couple of team meetings. “When that happens, you have to pay a price. I’m disappointed in him, but I’m also very proud of him for the way he played.”

Of course it’s a lot easier to be proud of someone after they rush for 131 yards and score two touchdowns in a little more than a half of football.

Costly digit

Give a referee the one-finger salute and the penalty is a $40,000 fine.

Tennessee Titans defensive co-ordinator Chuck Cecil found that out the hard way Monday after his universal sign of displeasure directed at a game official was caught on tape Sunday. As they point out over at Pro Football Weekly, however, it could have been a lot worse. Team owner Bud Adams was slapped for a quarter of a mil when he got caught giving the fine fans of Buffalo the same salute last year.


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