The Panthers are clearly trying to limit quarterback Cam Newton's carries this season.
Newton is on pace to carry the ball 93 times for 489 yards and six touchdown this season. That's still better than most quarterbacks, but well below his totals from the first two seasons.
As a rookie in 2011, Newton carried 127 times for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns, the most by an NFL quarterback. Last season, he ran 126 times for 741 yards and eight TDs.
St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis, who'll face Newton on Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., is thrilled Newton's role in the running game has been reduced. While Laurinaitis has proven he's not afraid of anyone, he admits that tackling Newton can be an imposing task.
"It's like hitting a tight end," Laurinaitis said. "I haven't really had a chance to play a quarterback of his size yet, so it will be definitely a new experience for me. His body type is like an athletic tight end. Speed-wise and stuff like that, it's going to be different.
"A lot of time with big guys, you need to tackle them high because they're tall. But heck, if you go up high and then he's going to give you that stiff arm, so you got to work on trying to slap it down and fire at his legs and stuff like that."
PONDERING THE FUTURE: After taking Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft and giving him 29 starts, the Vikings have moved on.
Ponder, who will back up recent acquisition Josh Freeman at quarterback on Monday night against the New York Giants, is 12-17 as a starter, with 39 turnovers (30 interceptions and nine lost fumbles), 33 touchdown passes and four touchdowns rushing on his career ledger.
When Ponder was passed over for Matt Cassel for the starting spot last week, he said he'd have a hard time embracing a trade. With the NFL deadline looming on Oct. 29, Ponder was asked again how he would feel about being dealt. This time, he changed his tone.
"I don't know," Ponder said. "I have to figure out what's best for me and everything and for this team. I don't know if that's staying here or going somewhere else."
General manager Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier have said Ponder has a "bright future" ahead of him, but haven't guaranteed that would play out in Minnesota, or even in the NFL. Ponder's contract runs through the 2014 season, when he would carry a salary cap hit of more than $3.2 million.
Ponder said he wasn't sure if he would have a chance to win the job back this year, though he's been told to prepare as if to start in case of injury to Freeman.
"I don't know what's going on, what the decisions are," Ponder said. "They're trying to figure out what's best for this team."
DESKSITE: Nine NFL teams have partnered with DeskSite, a new digital video entertainment system that provides more content than even the staunchest fan could imagine.
Video delivered through the platform is available instantaneously, with a high quality that avoids any frame freezing or buffering.
Even better, what's available includes material not always presented on team websites.
"We produce more independent programming than any NFL team in terms of hours," said Bob Reif, the St. Louis Rams' chief revenue officer. "DeskSite is the most comprehensive distribution platform for our fans.
"We have a bowling event for one of our players, and the video may not make it to our website, but it will make it on DeskSite. Everything we produce will have an outlet.
"And people can do it at their own leisure, can catalogue at their leisure."
The Rams, Patriots, Giants, Jets, Texans, Ravens, Dolphins, Redskins and Raiders are partners with DeskSite. Richard Gillam, the company's CEO, expects many more NFL teams to jump aboard, especially when they see what his product offers.
He's also planning to expand to other sports and in other areas of entertainment with his product, specifically designed as a "big-screen app" for desktops, laptops, tablets, games consoles and smart TVs.
"It's crazy how much content the teams have and it does not all go on the website," Gillam said. "If an out-of-market fan does not get access to some of their TV shows shown locally, we solve that. Plus all the other content you can't get anywhere else, it is in one neat package here: High-def, instantly downloadable, top quality. Fans can experience content in a way they can't do in any other way."
SPREADING IT AROUND: While LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson get most of the touches for the Philadelphia Eagles, coach Chip Kelly makes sure the ball gets spread around.
Nine Eagles have scored touchdowns so far, and the team is averaging 27.7 points per game.
"Everything we do is dictated on what is the defence presenting to us and what's our plan to attack," Kelly said. "We like to say we are an equal-opportunity scoring offence. We don't care if we run it in. We don't care if we throw it in. It's just about generating points."
Along the way, they're gaining a ton of yards.
The Eagles are just the second team in NFL history to accumulate at least 1,500 yards passing and 1,050 yards rushing through the first six games of the season (1954 Rams had 1,612 passing, 1,136 rushing).
They're the fourth team to have 400 yards of offence in each of the first six games. Their 2,699 total yards are the most in franchise history and the sixth highest in league history through six games.
Just wait until they're really in sync.
"We're still all getting on the same page, all on the same timing," said wide receiver Riley Cooper, who had his first career 100-yard receiving game last week in a win at Tampa Bay.
"We'll get it going. Everyone's time will come. I didn't really get a lot of looks the first however many games and then I did. It's just a new system; everyone's getting used to it. It will come around."
UNDRAFTED, UNDAUNTED: Wes Welker is the second undrafted player to reach 800 career catches.
Peyton Manning's new slot receiver joined former Denver Broncos great Rod Smith (849) in that category with a 20-yard touchdown catch against Jacksonville last week. Welker had mixed feelings about the milestone, though, saying it held no special significance:
"Not really. I'm just looking forward to the next game and looking forward to Indianapolis and getting ready for them," he said.
On the other hand, Welker doesn't take any reception for granted.
"They're all tough to get," he said, "so they are all my favourites."
Welker is the first NFL player to score a TD in his first six games with a team. His eight touchdowns are one shy of his career high set in New England in 2011.
WELCOME TO CINCINNATI: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is planning a special welcome for a lifelong fan from Connecticut later this month.
As a surprise at their home in Connecticut, a son recently gave his father a Bengals cap, an autographed Dalton jersey and tickets to a game against the Jets at Paul Brown Stadium on Oct. 27. The father is a lifelong Bengals fan who has never attended a game in Cincinnati.
A video of the moment was posted on the Internet. Dalton watched it and was touched by the father's emotional reaction.
"It shows the impact that players have," Dalton said. "Really it shows that you can make a positive impact on people. To see how excited he was to get to come to a game, to get my jersey, it's special."
Dalton and other Bengals plan to meet with the family when they arrive in town.
"I'll make sure that the team's going to be doing something for them when they come to the game," Dalton said. "So I'm sure I'll find a way to talk to them whenever they get here."
AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner, Rob Maaddi, Dave Campbell and Arnie Stapleton, and Sports Writers Joe Kay and Steve Reed contributed to this story.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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