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NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. Sunday (WJZY)

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Panthers’ Greg Hardy says spat with Falcons kicker is in past

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/31/17/41/1pj931.Em.138.jpeg|316
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy engaged in a war of words with Falcons kicker Matt Bryant after the Panthers beat Atlanta 30-20 in December. But he says that verbal spat is all in the past now – although he still thinks Bryant is “weird-shaped.”
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/31/19/39/hxvAs.Em.138.jpeg|240
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    Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy (76) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan during a 2012 game in Charlotte. The Panthers defeated the Falcons 30-20 last December.

Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy engaged in a funny and entertaining war of words last year with an opposing kicker, of all people.

And while Hardy didn’t back away from his comments about Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant, whom he called “small and weird-shaped” last year, Hardy said Thursday he’s moved on.

Before their December game in Charlotte last season, Hardy contended the 3-9 Panthers were better than the 11-1 Falcons. After Carolina’s 30-20 win, Hardy told the Falcons to “get the (expletive) off our field,” echoing the words Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan used after the Falcons’ 30-28 win in Atlanta in Week 4.

As he left the field, Bryant told Hardy he could watch the Falcons on TV during the playoffs.

“That was a one-time thing. We did feel disrespected. This year they’re just another team,” Hardy said. “It’s like we have a different philosophy, a different swagger about our defense where it’s not about who’s coming in. It’s about what we’re doing and to what effect are we practicing and producing and staying productive.”

As for calling Bryant “weird-shaped,” Hardy said: “He is, is he not?”

“I’m sure he’s a good guy when he’s not in pads,” Hardy added. “I hope it doesn’t happen again. It’s going to end the same way. He’s not going to be happy about it because he’s a kicker. But it’ll be good to see him again. I’ll say hey.”

More from Mitchell: Three days after calling out Commissioner Roger Goodell and saying he feels he’s being targeted by the NFL for his physical play, free safety Mike Mitchell said he had a productive conversation with an independent arbitrator about his concerns.

Mitchell, fined $7,875 for taunting during a win against St. Louis on Oct. 20, said he spoke with NFL appeals officer Ted Cottrell by phone Tuesday.

“I definitely had a good talk with them. The appeals process went perfect,” Mitchell said. “Everybody said what they needed to say. It’s in the past and we’re moving forward.”

Mitchell said he believes he won the appeal, based on Cottrell’s comments. Among other things, Mitchell was upset he was fined for a play on which he wasn’t penalized.

Mitchell celebrated along the Rams’ sideline after pushing quarterback Sam Bradford out of bounds. Bradford sustained a season-ending knee injury on the play, but Mitchell said he did not realize that at the time.

Mitchell did the same celebration earlier in the game, and was neither fined nor penalized in that instance.

Safeties splitting time: Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he will continue to use a platoon system at strong safety, with veteran Quintin Mikell and undrafted rookie Robert Lester expected to share reps Sunday against the Falcons.

Mikell and Lester both have missed time because of injuries, but are healthy. Mikell started but only played 12 snaps last week against Tampa Bay – compared with 58 snaps for Lester. Rivera did not indicate who would start against Atlanta.

“They understand they both have roles on this team and they’re going to continue that role until one of them clearly steps up or the other one doesn’t play as well,” Rivera said.

Mikell has 20 tackles and a forced fumble in five games, and Lester has 12 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery in three games.

Injury report: Outside linebacker Chase Blackburn missed practice Thursday after aggravating his foot injury. Rivera said he has a “little bit” of concern about Blackburn, whose emergence was part of the reason the team traded Jon Beason to the Giants last month.

Defensive end Charles Johnson (groin) and running back DeAngelo Williams (quad) were sidelined a second consecutive day but hope to practice Friday, according to Rivera. Johnson said he is “good to go” for Sunday.

“I’m going to try to come out and practice (Friday), move around, get things going,” Johnson said. “I feel good. I’ve been working out on the side, just trying to get right.”

Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson
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