Carolina Panthers

Panthers blame officials for chippy game

CHARLOTTE -- So many things were out of hand Sunday.

But according to the Carolina Panthers, the officials were among the issues in their 20-7 loss to Tennessee.

The game took on the tenor of a division rivalry, and featured 20 flags for 181 yards, including eight personal fouls that drew 15-yard penalties.

Two of those were on Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers, one for a shove to Titans center Kevin Mawae in retaliation for being pushed over a pile.

"I mean, the ref's got to control that; and today they didn't do a very good job of doing that," Peppers said of the nearly out-of-control afternoon. "The ref's standing right there. They've got to handle that kind of stuff."

Panthers linebacker Jon Beason was mystified after getting his for a shove to Mawae's face. He joked that it was "My second personal foul on my life, since I was in Optimist. I don't think I'm a dirty player.

"That stuff started from the very beginning," Beason said. "We knew what kind of game it was going to be. We've just got to be more level-headed and not respond to that, to just play football.

"Human beings ref the game and they make mistakes, too."

The Titans took several shots at Panthers quarterback David Carr which were beyond the pale, but the whole game had a chippy tone. Panthers coach John Fox called it "frisky," while receiver Steve Smith went with "brisk ... it was a little entertaining."

• WHERE'S THE PHONE BOOTH: Quarterback Vinny Testaverde was the inactive third quarterback, but he wasn't playing.

Testaverde stood on the sidelines, along with injured reserve QBs Jake Delhomme and Brett Basanez.

Fox said he was only going to play in a "super, super emergency," because of the Achilles strain that kept him out of practice all week.

"But, for that thing to heal, that wouldn't have been in his or our best interest," he said.

The Panthers had to go to backup Matt Moore late in the game, enough time for him to throw an interception (to Rock Hill's Chris Hope), but Fox said there was no temptation to put him in earlier.

"We've had plenty of quarterbacks work their way through our lineup," Fox said. "We didn't want to force anything, but at the end there we didn't have that much of a choice."

• ANOTHER CHANGE: The Panthers made another switch at kick returner, giving the job back to rookie Ryne Robinson.

He came into the game with a team-high 20.3-yard average, ahead of injured Nick Goings (19.3), DeAngelo Williams (18.0) and Geoff Hangartner (13.0).

He didn't do much to inspire confidence, as he returned three for 52 yards (17.3), with a long of 21. The Panthers are last in the league in the category.

• STREAK'S OVER: Coming into Sunday, the road team had won 11 straight games involving the Panthers.

They had been undefeated on the road and winless at home this year, with the last home win involving them being Philadelphia's on Dec. 4, 2006.

• STILL LOOKING FOR LBs: The Panthers are looking around for more help at their most populous position. They had former Philadelphia starting linebacker Matt McCoy in for a free-agent visit, although he left for a trip to New Orleans and is expected to sign with the Saints or another team this week.

McCoy, the Eagles' second-round pick in 2005, visited the Panthers prior to that year's draft, as they liked his potential as a linebacker and special teams player. The San Diego state product started 10 games for the Eagles last year, but lost his job to free-agent pickup Takeo Spikes, and they cut him earlier this week after he made a costly penalty on special teams.

General manager Marty Hurney said at this time of the year, teams have to always keep tabs on who's out there, since injuries and replacement signings have left the market bare.

"He's a guy we liked coming out," Hurney said. "It's hard to find guys who could come in and help you this time of year, so anytime something comes up you have to investigate it."

The Panthers have 10 linebackers on the roster, more than any spot. At least two of those are special teams-specific players (long snapper Jason Kyle and gunner Brandon Jamison), and starting middle linebacker Dan Morgan's still out with an Achilles injury and might not be back for several more weeks.

McCoy's the second player they tried to add last week, after putting in a claim on former Pittsburgh return man Ricardo Colclough, who was awarded to Cleveland after a coin flip.

• EXTRA POINTS: Yes, wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett was inactive again. Even though he became a topic again last week, he still wasn't part of the plan. He was actually farther away than ever, with special-teamer Adam Seward returning to health.

There were a few interesting elements to the inactive report. They replaced defensive end Stanley McClover on the active roster with Otis Grigsby. Grigsby was up the first three games of the year and had three pressures and a sack. McClover played the next four but had just one pressure.

Also down were Testaverde, Morgan and linebacker Donte Curry, offensive linemen Evan Mathis and Frank Omiyale and defensive end Charles Johnson.

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