Wednesday, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy said his 3-9 team is better than the 11-1 Atlanta Falcons.
Thursday, two Falcons veterans reacted with indifference.
“What else is he going to say at this point? They haven’t won that many games,” Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez told Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And you know they are going to compete. They always compete.
“That’s part of the fun. That’s why we play the game. We have got to go out there and see if we can prove him wrong.”
The Panthers lost 30-28 to the Falcons on a last-minute field goal on Sept. 30 and have lost six out of eight games since.
Wide receiver Roddy White said the Panthers “have got to say something.”
“Those guys played well against us last time so I can’t really talk about him and what he said,” White said. “They had seven sacks so you might not want to get those guys all riled up. Just let ‘em sleep.”
The Falcons have already wrapped up the NFC South with four weeks remaining in the season and the Panthers have lost five straight to their division rival.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan directed an expletive at the Panthers after the Falcons’ game-winning field goal in September, and Hardy and others took offense.
“(Ryan is) a fiery guy,” White said. “He’s a competitor and he wants to win. And, just speaking in general, I didn’t have a problem with what he said.
“It is our field. So get off it; you just lost. It’s that simple.”
Injury update: Six players, including five starters, missed practice Thursday. Ron Rivera is hoping half of them can play against Atlanta.
Wideout Brandon LaFell (turf toe), running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle), linebacker James Anderson (back), safety Charles Godfrey (back), defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (wrist) and backup guard Jeff Byers (back) all were out.
Godfrey, Stewart and LaFell look like the least likely to play against the Falcons. LaFell was limping noticeably in the locker room Thursday, and Stewart hasn’t practiced since getting hurt against Philadelphia on Nov. 26.
LaFell, injured on a pass he dropped against Kansas City, also has a chipped bone in his big toe. But he said the turf toe is the bigger issue.
“I just have to keep getting treatment, see if I feel better,” LaFell said. “I can’t push off right now. But hopefully, sooner or later, it’ll get better.”
Edwards is wearing a protective brace on his right wrist after severing a tendon last week. Edwards said a jagged edge from a previous fracture rubbed against the tendon over time before it snapped.
Edwards has not practiced this week, but said he is going to try to play against the Falcons.
“I’m trying to see the pain tolerance. We’re going to find a clever way to wrap this up,” Edwards said. “At some point I’m going to have to test it and see what I can handle.”
Roster move: Carolina picked up free-agent safety Anderson Russell to fill the practice squad spot created when Seattle signed cornerback Ron Parker.
Russell, an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State, was most recently on the Miami Dolphins practice squad. Rivera said the scouts liked his size and quickness.