CHARLOTTE -- Carolina Panthers wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad's aging, but he's aging well.
The veteran receiver proved he could still make big plays in the passing game last week against Atlanta, partly because he has the kind of game that defies the steady onslaught of time. His eight-catch, 147-yard day included a 36-yard touchdown grab, the kind of deep ball he used to reel in often.
The 35-year-old never had a game based on speed, so it stands to reason that he'd be able to remain productive as the years passed.
Coach John Fox said Muhammad's work ethic and approach to offseason conditioning has allowed him to sustain his game.
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"Typically, let's face it, the older you get, the heavier you get," said Fox, perhaps autobiographically. "He's worked very, very hard to keep himself physically in shape. As far as his actual style, I don't think it's different earlier in his career than later. He runs good routes, he's dependable, he knows where to be and he's a fierce blocker. That's been his trademark since the first time I had him, and it's more of the same this time."
Teammate Steve Smith's glad to have the help, and didn't like the suggestion that Muhammad was ready to join AARP.
"What's wrong with 35? You're saying that like he's 900 years old," Smith said. "He's running routes great, he's muscling guys. If he can catch the ball like he's doing, it doesn't matter if he's 25 or 35.
"There ain't a lot of 25-year-old receivers can do what he's doing right now. That's why he's on our team, and why some young bucks are sitting on the bench on other teams. It doesn't matter how old you are. He's doing a good job, no matter how old he is."
• JUST IN CASE: Though he was the subject of some jokes last week, tight end Jeff King defended his ability to play tackle in a pinch. He's the emergency tackle if the Panthers run out, as they nearly did twice already this season. Because of the Panthers' running style, the 260-pound King draws a lot of blocking assignments anyway. But while no one wants him to have to, he thinks he could get by.
"You know what, if it came to that, I think I would know what to do," King said. "I don't think they'd have done anything crazy play-calling-wise, but I knew what to do, and I would have got in there and played hard, that's for sure. I was approached and told it could happen. I was ready for it. X-and-O-wise, I'd have been fine.
"To be quite honest with you, on a lot of plays, you're blocking the defensive end solo anyway. The only difference would be on pass-protection, that would be the only thing that would scare you, but we do some of that, as well."
King said he's never played line at any level of football, but he didn't object to it from one aspect.
"I don't take offense to that," he said of those doubting his ability to play tackle. "If I'm going to start doing that I'm going to have to start getting paid like one."
• WHY HE'S HERE: Panthers kicker Rhys Lloyd leads the league with nine touchbacks in four games, already eclipsing last year's team total of four. Two of those were his own in the 2007 season finale, after the team managed two in 15 games, to go along with six kickoffs out of bounds.
That's why when Kansas City coach Herm Edwards was talking about the Panthers' defense, he gave a nod to the special teams, as well.
"I think also that their kicking game helps them, too," Edwards said. "It seems to me that you are always playing on a long field against them. They've got great field position and when they pin you back you've got to punt and all of a sudden their offense has great field position. So they're playing the field goal position very well and that helps them also."
• UNLIKELY STAT OF THE WEEK: The Panthers have a record going, one both unusual and puzzling.
They've lost 19 straight games when the opponent has an individual 100-yard rusher. While that's generally a recipe for success, it's wild how steadily it's held against them.
The streak started with the Michael Vick "I'm back" game in 2003, and since then, every time the Panthers give up a 100-yard rusher, they lose.
The others in the top five make it the kind of company you don't want to keep. Detroit has lost 17 such games in a row, followed by Cincinnati (11), the New York Jets (8) and Kansas City (7).
• OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD: Left tackle Jordan Gross will miss the first start of his career today after sustaining a concussion last week. Gross took a knee to the back of the head (just behind the left ear) from Atlanta's Michael Boley last week, and was knocked out cold. He said it was his first "documented" concussion, but shrugged about the kind of hit that precipitated it.
"I hit my head all the time," Gross said. "It's my job. I've been kicked in the head, stepped on, everything you can be. It was just a random situation, I think.
"I don't think there's anything to blame besides just playing a contact sport."
• FAST BREAK: Part of the reason the Panthers were sore about the helmet-to-helmet penalty on defensive end Julius Peppers last week was because it took a touchdown off the board. Richard Marshall's interception for a score was negated by the unnecessary roughness flag thrown by embattled ref Ed Hochuli.
"Our goal is to score on defense," safety Chris Harris said. "We want to be like a run-and-gun team in basketball. We get a turnover and we want to try to take it to the end zone. That helps our offense and takes some of the stress off them."
Along those same lines, running back DeAngelo Williams expressed little concern that rookie Jonathan Stewart's getting most of the short-yardage work.
"I challenge myself with that," Williams said. "I'll just score from 50."
• FOR THE RECORD: Today's expected starter at left tackle, Frank Omiyale, will answer to almost anything. He's that used to having his name butchered, that he just goes along with it.
But so you know, it's pronounced oma-YALE, not O-mah-YAH-lay. That's the word the Panthers got from the Falcons when he was claimed off waivers last year, and they've stuck with it in official team publications.
"I call him Frank," Fox said last week when a reporter said it several ways in a short span.
• EXTRA POINTS: Today's a return home for Kansas City pro personnel director Ray Farmer, though his job's much different than his last one in Charlotte.
After the Panthers released the former Duke safety (following a failed a physical) in 1999, Farmer got a job co-hosting "The Playaz Club," a sports talk show on WFNZ that also featured former NFL tight end Ethan Horton and former Charlotte Checkers player-coach Shawn Wheeler. ...
If Panthers safety Quinton Teal plays today, it'll be the second time already this season two players from Coastal Carolina have faced off in the NFL. Not bad for a school with a six-year football tradition.
The Chanticleers have also produced Kansas City backup quarterback Tyler Thigpen, San Diego fullback Mike Tolbert and Cincinnati wide receiver Jerome Simpson.