Carolina Panthers

RB Shelton 'battling' to make team

SPARTANBURG -- Carolina Panthers running backs coach Jim Skipper was discussing how pleased he was with the depth at his position. He raved about the leadership of DeShaun Foster and Brad Hoover, the contributions of Nick Goings and DeAngelo Williams.

He lavished praise on Alex Haynes, and talked about how fullback Stephen Jackson and newcomers Marlion Jackson and Billy Latsko were "still feeling their way."

But Skipper has nine players in his group, and the name he didn't mention in his laundry list was Eric Shelton.

"Eric's in there battling," Skipper said. "He's battling. He had a tough time that one scrimmage, but he looked better this last one."

Shelton appears to be on the verge of not making the team this year after being carried the last two seasons and barely playing. A second-round pick in 2005, he has just eight rushing attempts (for 23 yards) and one reception (for six). The Panthers stashed him on injured reserve his rookie year because of an injury, and he only dressed for nine games last season.

This camp has been much like his career so far, with flashes of potential but more head-scratching than anything.

He had a disastrous day at the Fan Fest scrimmage, ran well enough last week but has gone through bouts of drops and fumbles.

When asked why such an obviously talented back (20 touchdowns his last season at Louisville) has struggled, Skipper shrugged.

"I don't know," Skipper said. "It's hard to pin on anything. Hey, maybe some guys take a little longer to develop than others. But the clock's on, also. I don't like to count nobody out until we see how it shakes out.

"Eric knows what's going on. He's busting his butt. He's doing a lot better than he did last year, and we've got some good competition at that spot."

PAINFUL MEMORY: It's just the preseason, but the Panthers will be wincing when they walk back into Lincoln Financial Field tonight because of their horrible previous trip.

The Panthers appeared set for a comeback on Dec. 4 last year, but a late interception from Jake Delhomme killed a potential game-winning drive. When he found out the next morning he had broken his right thumb and would miss the next three games, his despair grew.

When asked if that night was the low point of his career, the answer came quickly and surely.

"Absolutely not, no," Delhomme said. "One because of the game we lost and how we lost it. Just kind of more in shock the way we lost it. And knowing something probably wasn't right.

"As a player, you have a lot of lows and a lot of highs, but that was pretty low for me at that point."

Coach John Fox echoed the sentiment, saying, "It's not a real fond memory to lose late and lose your quarterback. Hopefully, things will go a little better this time.

EXTRA POINTS: Defensive end Julius Peppers won't play tonight after staying behind to recover from an illness. Fox said it was unrelated to the stomach issue Peppers had earlier in camp, and said he had "a fever," so they took him back to Charlotte early to be checked. ... There were four other players who didn't make the trip: safety Nate Salley, cornerback Curtis Deloatch and wide receivers Josh Davis and Justin McCullum.