DeAngelo Williams could play his last game as a Carolina Panther on Sunday against New Orleans, but the running back isnt thinking that way heading into it.
I dont go into a game saying this could be this, this could be that. I go in with the intentions of trying to win a football game and thats that, Williams said. If they let me go, release me, trade me or cut me or whatever they want to do, its their decision.
Williams, the franchises all-time leading rusher with 5,574 yards since 2006, was the subject of trade speculation earlier in the season. He had been demoted as the starter in favor of Jonathan Stewart after the bye week, but the trade deadline came and went with no movement.
He has started the past four games while Stewart has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain, averaging 58.8 rushing yards and 34.2 receiving yards.
When asked if he wanted to remain with Carolina, Williams was unequivocal.
If it was left up to me, yeah, he said. But it aint left up to me, though. I mean I guess the question is, whos the new (general manager) and whats his style of offense, whats his background.
Though never publicly expressing his feelings when demoted, Williams retweeted fans questioning the rushing attack and the run game philosophy.
For a second consecutive year, the teams leading rusher will not be a running back but will be quarterback Cam Newton. Only six times this season have either Stewart or Williams led the team in rushing in a game.
Williams signed a five-year, $43 million contract in 2011, with $21 million of it guaranteed. Stewarts contract was extended before the start of this season, and the two combine for $43.5 million in guaranteed money.
PRO SNUBS: A day after none of his players was selected for the Pro Bowl, Panthers coach Ron Rivera was still upset at the snub. The Panthers were one of seven teams without a player chosen for Hawaii, and Rivera thinks his teams slow start played a part.
Im disappointed for those guys, very much so, said Rivera, whose team went 2-8 to start the year. But I understand because of our circumstances earlier in the year. But it doesnt make it right or fair.
None of the seven teams without a Pro Bowl representative has a winning record. However, Kansas City tied with Jacksonville for the worst record in the league at 2-13 placed five players on the AFC roster.
Panthers rookie Luke Kuechly is the fourth alternate at inside linebacker, where San Francisco teammates NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis were voted the starters.
Kuechly leads the league with 151 tackles. Arizonas Daryl Washington, one of the linebacker alternates ahead of Kuechly, has nine sacks. Kuechly, who has two interceptions, said interceptions and sacks seem to draw more attention than tackles.
Those are big impact plays, Kuechly said. Its a little bit different if you make a tackle in the flat or something. Maybe that helped out a little bit.
Rivera believes defensive ends Greg Hardy (11) and Charles Johnson (10.5), who have combined for 21.5 sacks, also are deserving.
They could be taken votes away from each other, as well, Rivera said. Its a great tandem. Its the first time in a long time since weve had two guys in double digits.
INJURY UPDATE: A day after being limited in practice, Stewart sat out Thursday after suffering a setback.
Stewart has nursed a high ankle sprain since Week 12, and he returned to the practice field Friday for the first time since the injury.
Jonathan took a little bit of a step back from yesterday and theres a little bit more of a concern there, Rivera said.
Also sitting out Thursday was starting center Geoff Hangartner, who has missed the past two games with a foot injury. Hardy was not at practice due to a family issue, but Rivera said the team leader in sacks will be back Friday.
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