Carolina Panthers

Panthers' Hoover, other vets get surprise day off

CHARLOTTE -- It's been so long since his last day off, so Brad Hoover thought somebody was kidding.

But sure enough, the Panthers' fullback got a day off Wednesday and gets a long weekend to rest his sore body.

"I wish we had two," he said wearily of the week off. "I don't feel like I could go 16 straight games without a bye."

Hoover, who'll turn 32 in two weeks, has to take nearly all the work at his position in practice, since he's the only strictly defined fullback. Sure, Nick Goings takes a rep or two every now and then, and they used to have Billy Latsko on the practice squad. That leaves Hoover.

He said he was "shocked," when coach John Fox told him not to practice Wednesday, the first time he's enjoyed such treatment.

"It was weird," he said. "It's the first time in nine years I think I've had a day off. I'm glad they gave me one, because I feel like I'll benefit from it. It's a situation I've really not been in a lot, but I'll take it and run to the bank and then try to get ready."

Hoover, who takes a physical pounding anyway, plays the kind of game that lends itself to injuries. The most recent was a grotesque compound dislocated finger, in which the bone popped through the skin and they had to take his glove off to reset it so he could finish the game.

But the toughest part might be what he goes through at home, with two small children who need dad-time when he's off work. That makes rising to get to the stadium by 7 a.m. a challenge.

"Waking up in the morning, to be honest with you," he said of his most difficult challenge. "It's tough. The more the season goes on, the more pounding you take, just getting up out of bed sometimes is tough.

"The hardest thing is to go out there late in the season, in pads and (playing against) your own guys. I wouldn't say beat each other, but you're still out there carrying pads and trying to thump up guys and keep your body ready to go into a collision on Sunday."

• PLANNING FOR RAIDERS: Right tackle Jeff Otah and center Ryan Kalil plan to return when the Panthers come off their bye week, Nov. 9 at Oakland.

Otah has missed four games and Kalil three with ankle problems, part of the continuing pattern of absences for the starting line. The projected five starters have taken just 39 of the team's 489 snaps this season (8 percent).

If Otah and Kalil get back, it'll be the first time the starters have played together since Sept. 28.

"We're looking forward to finding that out," Fox replied when asked about seeing how they'd react.

• EXTRA POINTS: It's a good thing the Panthers don't have to issue an injury report this week, or they'd need to run out for more toner for the copier. Basically, if you were vaguely sore, a starter or had more than three years in the league, you got the day off Wednesday, their only practice of the week.

Only four regular starters worked, only because of positional shortages: Left tackle Jordan Gross, left guard Travelle Wharton, tight end Jeff King and safety Charles Godfrey.

"They told me I get two byes," Gross said, referring to his one-week concussion absence. "We just don't have enough linemen out here."

The Panthers are off until Monday, when they'll begin preparing for Oakland.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme was named the team's recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award for his comeback from Tommy John surgery. The award is given to one player from each team every year who, "in the eyes of their teammates, exemplifies and displays courage."

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