CHARLOTTE — With a diminished role in the backfield, Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams hasn’t had the chance to dodge many would-be tacklers lately.
Instead, Williams has been sidestepping reporters armed with questions about a potential trade
Wednesday, Williams said he doesn’t pay attention to the trade rumors because they’re out of his control, and that the thought of no longer being a Carolina Panther has not crossed his mind.
“I’ve never really thought about leaving, so the thought of staying a Panther never really crossed my mind because the thought of leaving never crossed my mind,” Williams said. “In my mind, I’m going to continue being a Panther until told otherwise. So those thoughts aren’t there.”
A team source told the Observer earlier in the week at least one playoff-contending team has contacted the team about trading for Williams before Thursday’s 4 p.m. deadline, and a source also said one team has contacted the Panthers inquiring about veteran wide receiver Steve Smith.
Williams said he’s kept his head down and continued working rather than pay attention to rumors, adding that he’s usually not available to the media during the week because his workout regimen conflicts with the team’s open locker room.
Williams now a backup
Williams’ role in the Panthers’ offense has diminished considerably. After missing just two starts since 2008, Williams has been the backup to Jonathan Stewart in the past two games.
He carefully sidestepped the question when asked if he’s frustrated with his new role on in the team’s backfield.
“(Frustrated) with us being 1-6, yes, but I can’t call the plays and run them, too,” Williams said. “I’m not throwing anybody under the bus, I’m not calling anybody out. I just try to make the best of my opportunity. Every play that we’ve drawn up is designed to score. And if we don’t score on a play that’s designed to score, then quite naturally you’ll be frustrated.”
In the past week, both fullback Mike Tolbert and coach Ron Rivera said Williams met the news of his demotion with frustration, but they commended him for handling it like a professional.
“When the head guy says something, you just listen because there’s not much you can say,” Williams said. “As far as being a pro, I knew that I just have to continue doing my job.
“I don’t know what I did or what I’ve done to be demoted, but we were talking the other day, and this is the first time that you get demoted and actually get more carries, so I’m actually happy with it. Because I got more carries and more playing time than I would have had I been a starter.”
He’s right. Against Chicago, Williams had 11 carries for 33 yards as the backup. Only against New Orleans did he have more carries (14) in a game all season.
When he plays, Williams is getting the ball at a higher percentage than when he was the starter.
In the past two games, as the backup, Williams has carried the ball 68.4 percent of the snaps he’s been in (13 carries on 19 snaps). In the five games he was a starter, Williams carried the ball 39.7 percent of the plays in which he was involved.
Smith, on the other hand, has been used plenty. He has three 100-plus-yard games this season and has led the team in receiving four times.
Rivera said he met with Smith, a 12-year veteran, on Wednesday as trade rumors swirled. He kept the details of their conversation private, and reiterated that the team is not actively pursuing trades.
“There’s a lot of diehard Panther fans out there that have a lot of things to complain about because of our play but at the end of the day, where I am in my career, old, lost a step, whatever you want to say ... I have the opportunity to finish my career here,” Smith said. “That’s what I plan on doing.
“For me, unless I’m cut I’ll be in this locker and in this uniform until I walk away. Until I’m cut, that’s what happens.”
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