CHARLOTTE -- In what should be a surprise to no one, the Panthers were shut out of Pro Bowl balloting Tuesday.
The team had sent at least one representative to the league's annual all-star game each year since 1996 after being blanked in their expansion season. But this year, with the team mired at 6-8, using a progression of quarterbacks that had the offense rated 29th in the league, it was hard to imagine who might have gone.
Regular representative Steve Smith's leading the team with 73 receptions for 817 yards, numbers which rank ninth and 16th, respectively, in the NFC. Throw in sub-par years from defensive stalwarts Julius Peppers and Kris Jenkins, and it was a recipe for a shutout.
In the past, the Panthers have usually had a few standouts in individual categories make it in the worst years. For instance, special teamer Michael Bates was a mainstay. But with no standouts who've reached the national radar, the Panthers will be staying home.
The guys with the best case this year were tackle Jordan Gross, rookie middle linebacker Jon Beason and strong safety Chris Harris.
The NFC tackle spots were taken by Seattle's Walter Jones, Dallas' Flozell Adams and Washington's Chris Samuels. Seattle's Lofa Tatupu and San Francisco's Patrick Willis were the inside linebackers, while the safety berths were filled by Minnesota's Darren Sharper, Dallas' Ken Hamlin and the late Sean Taylor, who was voted a starter.
• HARRIS NOW NO. 1: Thanks to a scoring change, Harris is the team's all-time leader in forced fumbles.
After reviewing stats Monday, one which was previously credited to teammate Deke Cooper was given to Harris, giving him eight. The league had him with eight all along, but the Panthers' coaches inadvertently gave one of them to Cooper, causing the mix-up in the stats the team distributes.
That means he's eclipsed the seven by linebacker Mark Fields in 2002 which stood as the previous single-season mark.
"It didn't all of a sudden happen," Harris laughed. "I always had eight. ... I had to remind a couple people. It got worked out."
• INJURY UPDATE: The Panthers were without six players in practice Tuesday as they began preparations for Saturday's game with Dallas.
Highlighting the list were Smith (illness) and Peppers (right knee sprain).
Peppers wasn't around when reporters were present, but Smith had a definite green tint as he passed through the locker room -- with no one getting close to him.
Also out were center Justin Hartwig (ankle), guard Geoff Hangartner (shoulder), wide receiver Keary Colbert (knee) and defensive tackle Kindal Moorehead (ankle).
Quarterback Vinny Testaverde (old) returned to practice after missing last week.
• EXTRA POINTS: The Panthers' win last week over Seattle kept them in the playoff race, but it also cost them draft position. A week ago, the Panthers were in the 10th spot in the draft order, but would be 13th if the season ended today.
They'd pick third among the five teams at 6-8, because ties are settled on strength of schedule. ... The Panthers are the only 6-8 team still mathematically alive for the NFC playoffs, because of their 6-4 record in the conference which stands as the first tiebreaker in multi-team scenarios.
Of course, that all hinges on them winning both their remaining games, and still getting help, since Minnesota would have to lose two, and they'd need losses by Washington against Dallas in the finale and at least one loss by New Orleans to get there. ... The Panthers will wear their alternate blue jerseys this weekend.