CHARLOTTE -- The Panthers running game has flourished this year with the growth of DeAngelo Williams, and the bolstering of the offensive line.
But it also got a shot in the arm when wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad returned, bringing his outside blocking with him.
Coach John Fox referred to the 35-year-old wideout as "a pretty fierce blocker."
"If there's a better one out there, I haven't seen him," Fox said.
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Quarterback Jake Delhomme was asked about a specific play last week, on which he cleared the way for Steve Smith to score a 15-yard touchdown. On that one, Muhammad blocked Denver corner Dre Bly into teammate Josh Bell, allowing Smith to cruise in.
"I've seen many," Delhomme said. "You know what, I see one a week."
Delhomme then recounted the Arizona game, in which Muhammad blocked three defenders on a Williams touchdown run, and another from Denver which didn't get as much notice.
"He blocked the cornerback, and he blocked him, and then he blocked him past the ball, and then he slammed him down," Delhomme said, with a grin. "There's a precedent set right then and there. And then he helps you up and taps you.
"It set the tone, without a doubt it set the tone."
Muhammad was brought back to Charlotte in part for that skill, and it's actually been his most productive part of the game. The 70 yards he posted last week against Denver were the first time he exceeded 50 since Oct. 12, but that doesn't mean he's not been valuable.
Muhammad said he grew up playing a physical style, playing linebacker and running back in high school. He's brought that to the outside, while many of his brethren prefer to play a finesse game.
"I think a lot of it is want-to," he said. "If you want to do it, you're going to do it. If you don't want to do it, you ain't going to do it. I think my game is a lot different than most players who play this position. I think I bring a little something different to the table. Obviously it adds to the things you can bring to the offense and different ways you can help the offense out. My style is a little different than anybody else's."
DIFFERENT ANGLES: Giants coach Tom Coughlin took a novel approach this week, grinning through his press conference Wednesday, even doing jumping jacks at one point and saying: "How could it be any better than this?"
Granted, his team's lost two straight, is banged up, and looking for a ray of light.
Meanwhile, Fox has been even more bland than ever, stone-faced and not offering much -- or even less than normal.
Asked about Coughlin's act, Fox said: "I missed that."
"Tom's fit," Fox added with a nod, after a pause hoping he'd expound. "Jumping jacks are a good exercise."
Since that road led nowhere productive, Fox was then asked how much thought was put into such psychological ploys.
"It's all hard, and you put a lot of thought into a lot of things," he replied.
INJURY UPDATE: The Panthers were without another starter (and one potential replacement) Thursday.
Defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu (ankle) and right guard Keydrick Vincent (groin) were again held out of practice, but they were joined inside Thursday by middle linebacker Jon Beason (illness). Also, defensive tackle Gary Gibson (hand) was limited. Asked about the nature of Gibson's problem, Fox said: "He hurt his hand."
Fox wasn't prepared to cross Kemoeatu off the list of available players for Sunday's game, saying: "He's still not ruled out by any stretch; there's still a chance he could play."
Wide receiver Kenny Moore (hamstring) and defensive end Hilee Taylor (calf) were also held out.
The Giants held five players out Wednesday, but only linebacker Gerris Wilkinson was out Thursday.
Defensive linemen Justin Tuck (lower leg) and Fred Robbins (shoulder), running backs Brandon Jacobs (knee) and Derrick Ward (ankle), receivers Domenik Hixon (ankle/foot) and Sinorice Moss (calf) and right tackle Kareem McKenzie (back) were all limited in practice Thursday.