Carolina Panthers

Fox amazed by Smith's sideline acrobatics

CHARLOTTE -- Carolina Panthers coach John Fox watched the tape again, and he's still not sure how wide receiver Steve Smith kept his foot up.

Smith's 65-yard touchdown, which withstood a replay review, was more amazing the more you watched, and Fox said Monday he couldn't tell if Smith's right heel hit the sideline or not.

"It looked like it was in the air to me and it never touched anything. I think the officials concurred," Fox said. "Again, you are not going to catch every little detail, even with replay. But it was a great effort on Steve's part.

"He's done a lot of remarkable things I know in my tenure. He probably did some a little bit before I got here. He's extremely competitive, and he's very gifted, and he comes to play."

Smith's kept quite a pace after missing the first two games because of his suspension for punching Ken Lucas.

He's caught 33 passes for 613 yards, seventh in the league in yardage, while playing two fewer games than the guys ahead of him.

But he's fourth in terms of yards per catch (18.3), and on pace to top 1,400 yards. He's only done that once, evidence of the kind of roll he's on.

• INJURY UPDATE: The Panthers got through the Cardinals game cleanly, with no new injuries.

Fox was "as relatively confident as you can be," when asked if he'd get right tackle Jeff Otah and center Ryan Kalil back from their ankle injuries after the bye week. Otah's missed four games and Kalil three, as the offensive line continues to experience no continuity. The projected starting five have played together for 39 of the team's 489 snaps this year.

Fox also said he thought backup defensive tackle Darwin Walker would be OK after his weekend car accident. Fox said Walker's car might have been totaled in the wreck, which happened as he was on his way to practice Saturday morning.

"It wasn't just a fender-bender," Fox said. "It was a wreck."

Walker complained of being "stiff and sore" Saturday and Sunday and said he didn't sleep well before the game. So they deactivated him, using Gary Gibson as the third guy in the rotation.

• NOT YET: Fox wasn't touching the question as to which receiver would be the third after the bye. Ostensibly, D.J. Hackett should be back from his knee injury, but there's no indication he's ready to replace Dwayne Jarrett, who caught a pair of third-down conversions Sunday.

Asked if Hackett would get his old job back, Fox hemmed and hawed as long as he could before deciding to not answer the question at all.

"I just don't want to commit to anything because I don't know the answer yet," he said. "We'll come out and we'll play the best 53 guys or the best 46 on game day."

Fox said that Jarrett had "definitely improved."

• EXTRA POINTS: After their rigorous week of practice last week (and 14 straight weeks of football counting camp and the preseason), the Panthers get a nice break this week.

They didn't practice Monday, just taking care of film and paperwork and off-field meetings. They'll work once Wednesday, and that'll be it, as Fox decided to give them an extra day off Thursday before their long weekend.

It'll help, as several players said last week was one of the most intense weeks of practices to date. Fox likened it to a two-minute drill just before halftime, saying, "You need to step it up a little bit and you get your break at halftime."

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