Panthers’ DT says team has no heart
By By MIKE CRANSTON, AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE — Kris Jenkins started being concerned about his team’s effort a few weeks ago. The Carolina Panthers defensive tackle then decided he couldn’t wait any longer to address it.
After Sunday’s dismal 20-7 loss to Tampa Bay, Jenkins called out his teammates, saying they lacked heart, passion and drive.
Given 24 hours to reflect on comments that sent shockwaves through the organization, Jenkins wasn’t backing down Monday.
The Panthers (2-2) stumbled into team meetings in disarray Monday, a day after their meltdown on the field, the sidelines and locker room.
Defensive end Julius Peppers looked sluggish and remained without a sack, the secondary continued to play soft coverage and the Buccaneers rushed for 189 yards.
David Carr, filling in for Jake Delhomme, completed less than half his passes, was sacked three times, and couldn’t get Steve Smith the ball. Held to five catches for 32 yards, Smith was seen yelling into the phone to the offensive coaches in the press box in the second half.
After the Panthers scored a meaningless touchdown in their nearly empty home stadium in the final minute to avoid a shutout, Jenkins took aim at his underperforming teammates.
Jenkins, who had four tackles, said Monday he went to the media with his thoughts instead of the team to make sure the message got across.
It was clear Monday the accusations hit home.
As fullback Brad Hoover readied to leave the locker room, Smith, with reporters standing nearby, said goodbye.
Smith then refused to speak to reporters, as did Peppers, a three-time Pro Bowl pick receiving the most criticism of his career for his subpar play.
Delhomme, out with a strained right elbow, felt Jenkins’ comments were out of line.
Fox, who has rarely called out players, tried to brush off Jenkins’ comments as the result of frustration.
Something is wrong.
In the past three weeks the Panthers have played poorly in two home losses, and were sluggish in a win over Atlanta. With the 20th rated offense and the 23rd ranked defense, they look nothing like the team many thought would return to the playoffs after a one-year absence.
Jenkins’ comments came after a tumultuous offseason that saw the three-time Pro Bowl pick placed on the trading block, and after he was the only starter to skip June’s voluntary workouts.
Jenkins knows he created a stir. He knows he’ll face scrutiny.
Still, he feels he made the right move and hopes it jump starts his team.