Thomas Davis and Richard Marshall combine for a tackle on Sunday. (Photo by John Clark)
CHARLOTTE – Chris Harris said the team’s defense graded out much better this past Sunday against the Washington Redskins.
In particular, Harris said the tackling was better against the Redskins than the previous three weeks.
“We had only five missed tackles, which is huge,” Harris said. “We didn’t have the mental busts that we had the previous three weeks. Guys were very energized. We had fun. That’s one thing we said before we got out – let’s go have fun and the rest will take care of itself.”
Coincidence or not, Harris was back on the field for the first time last week and registered nine tackles after missing the first three games with a knee injury.
“It felt great to get back out there,” Harris said.
NOT OVERLOOKING BUCS: Harris said the Panthers aren’t overlooking the Bucs, who are 0-5 this season.
“Anytime you play against a team that hasn’t won a game their back is against the wall,” Harris said. “So when your back is against the wall you have to come out fighting. So we’re definitely going to get their best shot.
“They’re not an 0-5 team from watching them on tape. There are games they could have won. I thought they should have beat Dallas. We’re not going in there thinking we’re playing an 0-5 team. We’re playing a good football team.”
INJURY UPDATE: TE Dante Rosario was held out of practice with an ankle injury Thursday after spraining his ankle the day before in practice.
Also, WR Steve Smith was limited with a knee injury, but appeared fine walking around the locker room after practice and should be fine for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.
A handful of others who were limited Wednesday returned to practice fully on Thursday including LBs Jon Beason, Na’il Diggs and James Anderson, RB Jonathan Stewart and DT Nick Hayden.
RIVALRY RENEWED: The Panthers hold a 10-7 lead in the series with Tampa Bay, but there have been some memorable games in what has been a very physical rivalry.
It includes some pushing and shoving matches between Julius Peppers and Kenyetta Walker, some verbal bashing between Kris Jenkins and Warren Sapp and even some bizarre trash talking between kickers Todd Sauerbrun and Martin Gramatica (and family).
“Since the inception of the NFC South, right off the bat there was a lot of rivalries starting, and for some reason we got started right away with them, and it's carried over over the years,” coach John Fox said of the rivalry. “If you look top to bottom in our division, even last year with us and Atlanta winning, the team that played on the road lost, except we were the only ones that beat New Orleans at home at their place. It's a pretty top to bottom division that people gear up for.”
Last year, the Panthers defeated the Bucs 38-23 after rushing for 299 yards, a loss that has triggered an ongoing nine-game losing streak that has stretched over two seasons.
“It was a real close game until late. It was 17-17 (in the third quarter),” Fox said. “I thought it was a good starting point because it was a division game. At that time we were both tied (for first) in our division, and those are defining games. The game there (at Tampa) wasn't so good; they whipped us pretty good. They are a very capable team, and whoever executes the best Sunday will win.”
NO TALK OF RETURNS: Fox is keeping tight-lipped over who’ll return punts and kickoffs this season.
Mike Goodson is back, so he could handle those duties. Or, Fox could turn to Kenny Moore or Jonathan Stewart. On punts, it might be Moore or Captain Munnerlyn.
“Good question but we'll wait for game time to decide that,” Fox said.