Tom Sorensen

Short takes: In awe of Athens, Panthers defense vs. Bucs and Luke Kuechly’s grit

I don’t know if Georgia’s Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., is the best place to watch a college football game, but it’s close.
I don’t know if Georgia’s Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., is the best place to watch a college football game, but it’s close. TNS

If Alabama is not the best team in college football, Georgia is. I don’t know if Georgia is the best place to watch a college football game, but it’s close. The country's best college town is Athens, Ga. I like being awed, and Georgia and Athens consistently do that. The first time I stepped on campus, I looked up at the sky and asked, “Why wasn’t I informed?”…

▪  As painful as NFL parity has been to watch, that’s about to change. By week 10, the better teams will assert themselves and the lesser teams will fade. I don’t know how good the Panthers are, but to be 5-3 midway through the season and a half game out of first in the NFC South is not bad work. The defense they played against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday ought to be on YouTube. All afternoon, every player was where he was supposed to be. That was intense defense. Smart, too…

▪  It was so good to see Luke Kuechly back on the field. For him playing middle linebacker is as natural as shaking hands. He moves, he hits and his instincts are true. Although he went into concussion protocol after Carolina’s loss to Philadelphia, Kuechly never acknowledged that he was concussed. The concussion would have been his third (officially). Who knows how many we sustained as kids?

Nobody wants to see Kuechly hurt. As I’ve written, I suffered a concussion, and I know the damage a concussion can do and for how long. But if a neurologist not associated with the team tells Kuechly he can play, and if the people he works for and with, people who love him and respect him, believe he can play, then it’s Kuechly's call.

▪  I like Philadelphia 76ers’ Jamil Okafor. The third pick in the 2015 draft out of Duke, Okafor is only 21. He’s 6-11, and he can score. Philadelphia has dropped him from the rotation and presumably wants to trade him. I don’t see the Hornets making a run. Charlotte likes the big men it has.

▪  Denny Hamlin is NASCAR's new bad guy, and deserves to be. With fewer than three laps remaining Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, Hamlin was running behind Chase Elliott. Hamlin simply dislodged him. The idea apparently was to move Elliott out of the way, and he did. Elliott spun, smoke flew out of his car and he hit the wall. Elliott finished 27th and confronted Hamlin after the race.

Hamlin is fit, but he's not a big guy. The Elliott fan who after the race wanted a piece of Hamlin, a “Duck Dynasty” looking guy, is big. Fortunately the big man was stopped before he could reach Hamlin. No matter how indignant a fan becomes, he has no right to go after an athlete. Duck Dynasty got too close. NASCAR can't let that happen. The access race fans have is integral to the sport. It would be a shame if NASCAR has to restrict it.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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