Carolina's DeAngelo Williams not only has emerged this season as one of the NFL's most electrifying running backs, he's also one of the league's most sure-handed players.
Williams didn't fumble during the regular season, joining San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson as the only non-fumbler among the 16 backs who rushed for 1,000 or more yards.
Williams has carried the ball for 495 consecutive rushes without a fumble, second only to Tomlinson's 844, according to the league.
Williams has only one fumble on a running play in his three-year NFL career, and he recovered that against St. Louis on Nov.19, 2006.
Williams also fumbled once after making a pass reception during the 2007 season opener at St. Louis. The Rams recovered the ball.
Williams ranked fourth in the NFL this season with 1,515 yards rushing and was first with 20 touchdowns. Both statistics set team season records.
Coach John Fox sounded optimistic Friday that his team's injured players have been able to heal during their playoff bye this week.
“We got probably a lot of good rest for them this week and we haven't pushed them too hard,” Fox said. “They still have (Saturday) and Sunday and we'll form back up on Monday. I anticipate they'll be a lot healthier then than they are now.”
Starting defensive tackles Maake Kemoeatu (ankle) and Damione Lewis (shoulder) didn't play in the final regular-season game in New Orleans, and starting offensive linemen Jeff Otah (toe) and Geoff Hangartner (ankle) were injured during the game.
It's likely that at least some of them would not have been able to play this weekend if the Panthers had not earned a bye.
Fox kept practices light this week. Players had three hour-long practice sessions without pads. They also lifted weights.
“We got some guys hopefully stronger and faster during the week with some good lifts,” Fox said.
Now that the regular season is over, the Panthers can resume negotiations with offensive tackle Jordan Gross regarding a long-term contract extension.
NFL rules prohibited any negotiating during the season because Carolina put its franchise tag on Gross during free agency last year and Gross played the season under a one-year tender.
The contracts of Gross and defensive end Julius Peppers expire after this season, and the team hopes to keep both Pro Bowlers.
General manager Marty Hurney has declined to comment on negotiations with their agents.
Edited by Jangler, 03 January 2009 - 10:50 AM.