Sports

Panthers must contain Turner

The last time the Carolina Panthers saw Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner, he ran over them for 117 yards and four touchdowns.

That came in a 45-28 victory by the Falcons against the Panthers in the Georgia Dome last November, somewhat of a typical game for Turner in what was a breakout season for him.

"He's a good back," said Panthers defensive tackle Damione Lewis.

"He really fits with their offensive line and gets downhill. It will be a collective effort for us, because we'll need to gang tackle (him).

"He breaks a lot of first tackles so we, as a group, have to get him."

Last season was Turner's first in Atlanta after playing four seasons in San Diego as a backup to LaDainian Tomlinson. Turner rushed for 1,699 yards in 2008, second in the NFL behind Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and just ahead of No.3 DeAngelo Williams of the Panthers.

Briefly

Offensive tackle Jeff Otah missed Thursday's practice with a left shoulder injury. Panthers coach John Fox wouldn't disclose the nature or the severity of the injury. But Otah wasn't wearing a sling in the locker room after practice.

Other players who sat out: Safety Chris Harris(knee) and defensive tackle Nick Hayden (toe). Limited participation: Defensive back Sherrod Martin (knee) and defensive ends Everette Brown (ankle) and Charles Johnson (knee).

Running back Jonathan Stewart, who didn't practice Wednesday so he could rest his Achilles tendon, was back on a limited basis Thursday and said his Achilles felt "fine."

Backup quarterback Josh McCown said he won't need surgery to repair the knee and foot he injured in Sunday's loss against Philadelphia. McCown, who was put on injured reserve Monday, said the injuries were sprains.

McCown also said he hadn't thought about whether he would pursue an injury settlement from the Panthers after the injuries heal - allowing him sign with another team before the season is over.

"It's hard to say that that's a better option than staying here," said McCown.

"I don't want to close the door to staying here. My heart is here."

Former Panthers kick/punt returner Mark Jones said his injured hamstring is nearly healed and he thinks he'll be able to play "in the next week or two" - hopefully, he says, with the Panthers.

Jones had hoped to sign with Carolina last week, but failed a physical with the Panthers before the team's opener against the Eagles.

The punt-return position had been a source of concern in the preseason for the Panthers.

Rookie Captain Munnerlyn won the job and returned two punts for a 16.5-yard average against Philadelphia.

Jones, cut by Tennessee in the preseason, said his hamstring is nearly 100 percent.

"It's pain free," he said. "I'm making cuts and springing off of it well."

Jones said he might have a tryout next week with Oakland, and that he hadn't heard back from the Panthers.

"Carolina is where I want to be," he said.

Fox said he thought Munnerlyn played well in his first NFL game as a member of the nickel package on passing downs.

"He's a good young player," Fox said. "We saw him improve and thought he was our third best (cornerback) going into that game. He earned it. We don't just make decisions; (players) make decisions for us."

Receiver Steve Smith wore a microphone for NFL Films against the Eagles and a "pep talk" he gave quarterback Jake Delhomme caused a bit of an Internet sensation Thursday.

"Hey, I know you feel like crap," Smith said to a slightly stunned-looking Delhomme, who was in the midst of a four-interception day.

"I mean you're not a very handsome guy anyways, but the performer, the quarterback? I never really liked you as a quarterback. But as a person, I love you as a person."

Rest assured Smith's words came with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Falcons Notes

Despite his struggles Sunday against the Eagles, the Falcons consider Delhomme a dangerous quarterback.

"It's tough for us because Jake Delhomme is a Pro Bowl quarterback," safety Erik Coleman said. "He's won a lot in this league. He's been successful against us. ... You can't get caught up in what happened last game."

The Falcons figure that the Panthers will lean heavily on running backs DeAngelo Williams and Stewart, if Stewart is able to play.

"After somebody has a bad game, you expect them to come back and play their very best," defensive end John Abraham said of Delhomme. "I don't see it like, 'we've got him. We can go get him now.' This guy is good. I know if I have a bad game, the next game I going to try to play my best."

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Fullback Ovie Mughelli is still excited about his 1-yard touchdown catch against the Dolphins. It was his first touchdown catch since 2006.

"He's so proud he got a touchdown," Turner said. "He's telling everybody that he got the first touchdown of the '09 season."

Kicker Jason Elam, who missed two field goals and an extra point against Miami, kicked in practice Thursday after being listed on the injury report with a hamstring injury Wednesday. Smith did not want to attribute his misses to the hamstring injury. AJC

Three Falcons assistants, offensive line coach Paul Boudreau (2001-2002), quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave (1999-2000) and defensive backs coach Alvin Reynolds (1999-2002), are former Panthers assistants. AJC

The Falcons' defense had 10 interceptions and 10 forced fumbles last season, including just six fumble recoveries. They had three fumble recoveries in Week 1 against Miami. Associated Press

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