Scott Fowler

Soaked subs: Carolina Panthers rest starters on a rainy night in Charlotte

Carolina Panthers fans watch the players warm up in the rain Thursday at Bank of America Stadium. Kickoff for the exhibition against Pittsburgh was delayed because of lightning.
Carolina Panthers fans watch the players warm up in the rain Thursday at Bank of America Stadium. Kickoff for the exhibition against Pittsburgh was delayed because of lightning. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

If there is something worse in the world of NFL game days than the fourth preseason game it is this: a fourth preseason game that also includes a rain delay.

The Carolina-Pittsburgh game kicked off at 7:52 p.m. instead of the designated 7:30 starting time because of lightning and rain in the area. The teams were called onto the field and then sent back off a couple of times for warmups because of weather threats. Fans weren’t allowed into their soaked seats for awhile, either, and a number of them gave up and went home.

Once the game began, the Panthers seemed to be trying to run the clock from the beginning, as Joe Webb handed off to Cameron Artis-Payne on the first five plays.

Eventually, I’d guess that around 25,000 fans actually braved the steady rain and showed up, which is more than I expected. At least a third of them appeared to be wearing Pittsburgh jerseys, however.

A PANTHERS ANTHEM STORY: All of the hubbub about San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick sitting down during the national anthem as a form of protest reminded me of what Tshimanga Biakabutuka and Fred Lane did when they were Carolina running backs in 1998.

Biakabutuka and Lane sat and talked with each other at a Panthers-Buffalo game that year during the national anthem, drawing the ire of a number of fans. When their behavior was later pointed out to coach Dom Capers, he told them that wasn’t acceptable. “We’ve got to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Capers said at the time.

Lane and Biakabutuka said they didn’t mean anything by sitting down and it wasn’t any form of protest. They apologized and stood for the national anthem from then on.

“I did not mean to offend anyone,” Lane said at the time. “I shouldn’t have done it and it won’t happen again.”

Biakabutuka, who was born in Zaire and grew up in Canada, declined my interview request this week when I asked him through a Panthers spokesman to talk about the incident. Lane is deceased. At age 24, he was shot to death by his estranged wife in 2000.

EXTRA POINTS: Carolina’s Keyarris Garrett got ripped off late in the first half, barely making contact with a Pittsburgh defensive back before pulling down a spectacular one-handed catch for what should have been a touchdown. Unfortunately, Garrett was called for offensive pass interference. ... Artis-Payne looked strong again, running eight times for 47 yards in the first quarter. ... Cam Newton watched the game in a black sweatshirt from the sideline, as almost all of the Panthers starters never got in the game. ...

Third-string quarterback Webb, given the start as expected, made an ill-advised attempt at a hard block during the first quarter and got slung to the ground for his troubles. ... New punter Andy Lee landed his first attempt in a Carolina uniform very nicely at the Pittsburgh 8. ... Linebacker David Mayo had several good tackles as he saw extensive playing time since Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis didn’t play. ... Kicker Graham Gano was 4-for-4 in field-goal attempts in the first half to account for all the points in Carolina’s 12-0 halftime lead. Gano had no problems with the wet turf.

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