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Panthers remain confident despite 1-3 preseason

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Moments after the Carolina Panthers finished a 1-3 preseason with a loss to Pittsburgh late Thursday night, Steve Smith was confident.

Yes, the Panthers’ first-team offense managed one touchdown in their final three exhibition games. But Smith, who didn’t even get on the field Thursday night, isn’t taking much stock in the preseason.

“We were able to see what we did well and what we didn’t do well,” Smith said. “Everybody is all in next week. We are going to have to press forward and see what we have.”

By MIKE CRANSTON
AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Moments after the Carolina Panthers finished a 1-3 preseason with a loss to Pittsburgh late Thursday night, Steve Smith was confident.

Yes, the Panthers’ first-team offense managed one touchdown in their final three exhibition games. But Smith, who didn’t even get on the field Thursday night, isn’t taking much stock in the preseason.

“We were able to see what we did well and what we didn’t do well,” Smith said. “Everybody is all in next week. We are going to have to press forward and see what we have.”

The 19-3 loss to the Steelers wasn’t much of an indication if the Panthers are ready for the Sept. 9 opener at St. Louis.

Smith and quarterback Jake Delhomme sat out as a precaution with minor injuries. And the Panthers continued to show little of the playbook in not trying to tip off regular season opponents.

“This offense has some pretty standard red zone plays that we don’t have in the playbook right now,” said David Carr, who started in Delhomme’s place and was 8 of 12 for 85 yards and an interception. “Once we get everything in and we start game planning for St. Louis and watch film on St. Louis, we’ll execute and be fine.”

The first-team offense played in two series, although Carr played the entire first half. The Panthers got only a 31-yard field goal from John Kasay, but Dwayne Jarrett had an impressive, leaping 46-yard catch and Keary Colbert had two catches for 24 yards.

“I just know that we have a 16-game season ahead of us, and we have a lot of guys that have played in this league and made plays in this league,” said Colbert, who has likely locked up a starting job. “Once the regular season starts and the games start to count, everybody will step their game up.”

The first-team defense was feeling good about itself after playing just one series _ and without middle linebacker Dan Morgan as he comes back slowly from multiple concussions.

Julius Peppers barely missed sacking Ben Roethlisberger three plays before Kris Jenkins threw him to the turf.

“We looked much better than we have the past two weeks,” cornerback Ken Lucas said. “Plus we cut down on a lot of the mental errors. That was the difference between tonight and the last couple of weeks.”

While the starters got Friday and Saturday off, there is no relaxing for the reserves on the bubble of making the 53-man roster. The Panthers must cut 22 players by Saturday afternoon _ and few took advantage in Thursday’s final audition.

Carolina had six turnovers. Receiver Taye Biddle, running back Alex Haynes and tight end Michael Gaines _ all in danger of being cut _ lost fumbles. Third-string quarterback Dalton Bell had an interception returned for a touchdown and lost a fumble, hurting his chances at convincing coach John Fox to keep three quarterbacks.

Defensive end Dave Ball helped his cause by recording five tackles and a half-sack and cornerback Derrick Strait was active.

The Panthers will return to practice Sunday with more room in the parking lot and locker room, but unanswered questions about if the team is any better than last year’s disappointing 8-8 unit.

But for Smith, he’s just happy the preseason is over and the Panthers finally get a chance to throw all their weapons at the opposition.

“I’m ready to play. I’m excited,” Smith said. “We get to game plan now. There are a lot of things we get to throw in.”


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