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Players, coaches say Panthers face leadership void


Players, coaches say Panthers face leadership void

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Several coaches and players agree with ousted general manager Marty Hurney's assessment that there's a leadership void in the Panthers locker room.

After being fired Monday Hurney suggested more players need to ``step and up and say enough is enough'' when it comes to losing games.

He said leadership in any NFL locker room is critical - and the young Panthers don't have enough of it.

``I think Marty hit the nail on the head,'' Cam Newton said.

The second-year quarterback said there is leadership to an extent, but ``it's not enough consistently.''

Newton's leadership skills in particular have come under fire as he's received criticism from teammate Steve Smith earlier in the year for sulking on the sidelines and more recently from national media outlets who perceived Newton as pointing fingers at others ran than himself following Sunday's 19-14 loss to Dallas.

Newton, who rarely lost in college, admits this year's rough start has tested his him.

``It's extremely hard to lead because everyone on the outside starts looking and trying to find the reason we're 1-5 when he had such high expectations,'' Newton said.

Coach Ron Rivera agreed with Hurney as well, saying the Panthers need more players to take on a leadership role and that if they enough don't step up than he's going to have to look for replacements.

``Not enough guys have stepped up,'' Rivera said. ``There's the inability that some people have to do that, but those that have it need to step up and put it on the line.''

Rivera said he liked when center Ryan Kalil predicted a Super Bowl win for Carolina - an idea that now seems farfetched - because it showed confidence.

In his eyes it showed leadership, not boastfulness.

``If the other 52 guys don't think that way, something is wrong,'' Rivera said.

Hurney took full responsibility for Carolina's ``losing environment'' after being fired, but went on to say that the Panthers need leaders to step up in the locker room, citing Tom Brady in New England and Ray Lewis in Baltimore as examples.

``One of the keys to winning in this league is the makeup of the locker room,'' Hurney said. ``And I think that we need somebody to step up down there and take hold. ... We have young players, but at some point I think somebody needs to step up and say enough is enough. Because when it comes down to those (close) games and it comes down to those plays, I think it's a matter of confidence.''

Panthers safety Haruki Nakamura spent four years playing with Lewis in Baltimore before joining the Panthers this past offseason. He went to the playoffs four straight years with the Ravens.

``The place I came from it takes more than one person,'' Nakamura said. ``It takes everybody.''

Nakamura said he doesn't think the environment in Carolina has to change.

He said the winning does, and that starts with learning how to win just one close game. He said when the Panthers do that winning will become contagious.

``The word needs to be tradition,'' Nakamura said. ``When you hear the word change you think there are a lot of things wrong. I think the biggest thing is tradition and that comes with hard work.''

On most NFL teams, the quarterback is the leader.

Hurney drafted Newton No. 1 overall last year in hopes that he'd develop into Carolina's franchise quarterback and the team's leader.

When asked specifically if Newton can be that guy, Hurney said, ``he's certainly capable.''

However, after an impressive rookie season in which he earned AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, Newton has struggled out of the blocks in his season and the frustration has mounted as the season has progressed.

So too has the criticism.

``This isn't an indictment on any player but I think leadership in the locker rooms are probably one of the most underrated parts of this league because the talent level is so even,'' Hurney said. ``You look at the winning teams and there are leaders in those locker rooms and we have people who are very capable of it.

``It's a matter of people stepping up and refusing to lose.''


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Ravens sign Michael Crabtree to three-year deal

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Ravens sign Michael Crabtree to three-year deal

The Baltimore Ravens have signed wide receiver Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal on Friday according to general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome.

The deal is apparently worth $21 million, according to Adam Schefter.

After being released by the Raiders on Thursday following the signing of Jordy Nelson, Crabtree heads to the Ravens less than 24 hours later.


The 31-year-old is coming off a 2017 season when he recorded 58 receptions for 618 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2016 he posted 89 receptions for 1,003 yards and eight touchdowns.

Since 2015, the Texas Tech product has scored 25 receiving touchdowns, the fifth-most in the NFL. Crabtree and Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown are the only NFL players to post at least eight touchdown catches in each of the past three seasons.


In all, Crabtree has played nine NFL seasons – six of them with San Francisco (2009-14) and three with Oakland (2015-17). The former first-round draft pick (10th overall, Texas Tech) has registered 579 receptions for 6,870 yards (11.9 avg.) and 51 touchdowns in 125 career games (122 starts).

“Michael has played very well against the Ravens, so we know firsthand the attributes he brings to the game,” Newsome said in a team statement. “He is a smart, tough, physical receiver who battles for the ball. We like his temperament and believe he is a good fit for our football team, on and off the field.”

Since he entered the NFL in 2009, Crabtree’s 51 receiving scores rank 10th among active wide receivers, while his receptions (579) are seventh, and his receiving yards (6,870) are 12th.

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Ryan Grant's health issue and why the Ravens couldn't control voiding his contract

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Ryan Grant's health issue and why the Ravens couldn't control voiding his contract

The most obvious move in the NFL this offseason was the Ravens signing a new wide receiver (or three). It was less obvious why the team decided to commit so much money to former Redskins receiver Ryan Grant.

Grant has long been beloved by his coaches and teammates, but the results have never been there on game day. He has some potential to improve if given a larger role in a team's offense, which he likely would have had in Baltimore, but it never made much sense to offer him a 4-year contract worth nearly 30 million, with $14.5 million guaranteed.

Thankfully for fans who were uninspired by the reported agreement, Grant was unable to pass his physical and will not be joining the team.


At a press conference Friday morning, GM Ozzie Newsome called the void a "medical decision" that Newsome had no control over. 

NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported that Grant is recovering from a Grade 2 sprained ankle that would need two months rest.

You have to feel for Grant, who by all accounts has worked his tail off for many years just waiting for his chance. It's never easy missing out on nearly $15 million dollars guaranteed, but Grant should be able to find work with another team.

The timing of this news, coming so soon after former Raider Michael Crabtree became available, seemed fishy to some.

At Friday's press conference, Newsome also said the team would have still pursued Crabtree if they signed Grant. 

It's probably not fair to suggest that an NFL franchise would actually so publicly back out of a deal just because another option came along, as any team with that reputation would struggle to attract future free agents. That said, it could end up working out splendidly for the team.

Besides, if all else is equal, shouldn't a team located in Baltimore be going after a guy named CRABtree?