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Payton on the Panthers

    <span style="">Payton: "Most of the emphasis of today's practice, which is usual on a Wednesday, was first and second down. I thought we had pretty good tempo. It was a little warm, but I thought the snaps we had were good by and large."  

With Reggie missing practice, did his injury happen in the game?

Payton: "No, he has had a little swelling. It's something that we deal with and the feeling today was to calm it down. I'll probably rest him a little bit tomorrow as well. It's something that depending on how the game unfolds, if he has some or little swelling at all. He had a little more this week, but he should be fine."

Are you a little bit more confident that you'll be seeing Jeremy Shockey practicing tomorrow?

Payton: "He went today and looked good and the same with Marques (Colston), and that's good news."

Was the move with Terrance Copper a matter of you feeling you have more health at receiver now?

Payton: "That was a tough one. Terrance is a guy that has really been with us from the beginning here two-and-a-half years ago. It's a difficult move. He's someone that I'm close to, and yet we needed a spot and that was the one area where we felt like we were a little heavy. I'm hopeful – whether it's with us or with another team – that something good comes out of it for him because he's a special guy."

Do anticipate Sedrick Ellis practicing at all this week?

Payton: "We'll see. Right now we just gave you what it is. He didn't practice today and we'll see where he's at."

Tackling is obviously a big part of it, but what else has gone into your improved run defense over the past few weeks?

Payton: "I think we have done a good job with our fits. You have to play your gaps well, whether you're in an eight-man front or if you're in a seven- or seven-and-a-half-man front. Proper fits – and it's not just one position group, it starts with the guys up front and the linebackers and then to the safeties and corners in support. All three of those areas have helped. We have seen some real good run teams and they presented a challenge and it's good to see how we performed against those teams. We're playing another team that I think is very good at running the football with a good solid line and with experience and certainly a good set of running backs that we think are real talented. We're going to have to have that same type of effort."

Is part of that want-to?

Payton: "To play good defense in our league, or really at any level, you have to have want-to. You have to play hard. I'd hate to have anyone ever say that our team doesn't play hard. That would be a reflection on us as coaches. Playing hard is something that you can't take for granted, but it's a given if you're going to try to excel on defense."

What makes Jake Delhomme special?

Payton: "I think he's a good decision-maker. He's a confident player and he locates the ball well. His confidence is contagious. If you go back and research his numbers in regards to come-from-behind wins, it's pretty amazing. He's a guy that his players believe in and that's half the battle at that position. He's very smart and he's accurate."

With the Panthers' record of comeback wins, is there any extra emphasis on closing the game out this week?

"We always talk about where the game takes you in the third and fourth quarters. We feel like we have a quarterback and an offense that can come from behind and certainly we respect and appreciate and know that this is a team that has been able to do that as well. It's said all the time, but it's not over until you play the full game, and I'm sure that will be the case this week."

When did Jahri Evans' injury occur?

Payton: "That was game-related. He should be able to go tomorrow. We held him today, just trying to get some of the swelling down. He should be alright."

You talk about breaking the season down into quarters. Do you approach it any differently with this long road swing?

Payton: "We're trying to focus on this game in itself and understanding that we're going to be gone for awhile, there are some logistical things that we cover in regards to leaving Charlotte and heading to London, but our focus really has to be on Carolina, a divisional opponent on the road. That in itself presents enough of challenges; we don't need any more. I haven't put in front of them another group of games or anything like that. It is what it is in that this game is the most important game for us right now. Not looking ahead or even looking back at the game we just played; we're through with that. We always talk about that on Wednesdays and really it's that simple."

Why has Steve Smith had so much success against you?

Payton: "He's had success against a lot of people, not just us. He's a tremendous receiver. Having had a chance to coach him at the Pro Bowl, you see all the things that he brings to the table. He's explosive and he's hard to re-route. He has outstanding jumping ability; he has great hands; and I think he's extremely tough. All of those things are characteristics that make up a great player. When we had him the week over in Hawaii, we couldn't get him the ball enough. Even when we fell behind in that game over there, there was a point where we just told Tony Romo to throw it to Smith and he was going to make some things happen for us, and that was on a stage where he was surrounded by some other great players. He's a very confident player. Like I said, change of direction; awareness; hands; ball skills; toughness; can run – you can go on and on and on. I think each week when someone lines up to defend Carolina, you have to be mindful of where he is. You have to be because he can turn a game around. He made some real big plays us at Dallas in the playoff game in Carolina and beat us single-handedly."

Does the fact that you don't have Tracy Porter make him any more dangerous?

Payton: "We have a few guys nicked up, but we feel confident in the secondary that we're going to start on Sunday. We're going to see great receivers along the way here on our schedule, but certainly having him in the division we gain an appreciation for what he can do. In a critical game playing at home on a third-and-10 and he converts a little hitch route for four additional yards and all of a sudden (John) Kasay's in field goal range and they win the game and it was a third-and-10 play that really on paper was designed to get six yards and it winds up being 10 and just enough for the first down. If you watch that play, it's a good indication of his effort and his want-to. It's hard to ever completely take a player like that out of the game, it's more containing the player."

Is it too soon to evaluate Carl Nicks?

Payton: "You're constantly evaluating him. Each week we're grading his tape and he played better this past week than he did the week before and that was encouraging. Hopefully you just continue to see the growth spurt going in the right direction. He's big, he's strong, he's physical. The reps are the thing for him right now and the more he can get, the better off he's going to be."

Can you look at a young guy like that and say that he's going to be a player in this league for a long time or is it too soon?

Payton: "We're hopeful. We're hopeful with all these young players, but certainly in his case. He's big and has stature; we like the way he's built and put together. We like the way he has played in pass protection and we're hopeful that he ends up being a guy that plays for a long time for us."

What has surprised you about your division so far?

Payton: "I think if you asked anyone that question in our division, the honest response should be the way that Atlanta has played and the development of a young quarterback that has come on. Without having seen them on tape, they're playing with a lot of confidence and have come up with some big wins – on the road at Green Bay and at home versus Chicago. That's a team that you'd certainly start with. I'm not surprised at all by Carolina or Tampa Bay. Again, I know both of those coaches real well and we know those teams very well, so I'm not surprised to see the success that those teams are having. To see Atlanta playing the way they're playing is a credit to their coaches and their team. They're doing a good job and they're doing a good job with a rookie quarterback. When I see highlights – and I haven't seen game tape – he doesn't look like a rookie. He looks like he's pretty poised and comfortable with what they're doing."

When you see the success that the teams in your division are having, does that make this game even more important?

Payton: "They're all important. It can only be so important. It's a division game and it's the seventh game of the year. Obviously it's an NFC game, but it's a game against one of the teams that are in first place in our division, a team that we respect a lot and we know pretty well just as they know us. Going on the road to play it is a challenge, but that's what it is."

When you play a team twice a year, are there any secrets at this point?

Payton: "I think what you become more familiar with when you talk about teams in your division is personnel. In other words, last week was the first week for us to go out and watch (Nnamdi) Asomugha in warm-ups and really see what he looks like on our receivers. It was the first time that we ever got a chance to see (Justin) Fargas, and it might be another four years before we see them again. But in your division, twice a year, every year you become more familiar with the personnel of these other teams. There are wrinkles. There are things that you try to do offensively, defensively and in the kicking game, but you do get pretty familiar with a team from a "who's who" standpoint, and I think that's the first notable thing."

What kind of player do you see when you look at Julius Peppers this year?

Payton: "I think by and large they're collectively playing better defense and I think John (Fox) would say the same. You're seeing a player that has moved over to their right side – our left – and has been an explosive and dynamic player. He's long, he's rangy, he rushes the passer well and has power. When you can rush with speed and rush with power, you have a fastball and a curveball. You're not just a one-pitch guy. You see that with him now. Collectively as a whole defensively, they're playing with a lot of confidence and that's the reason why they are where they are. When you look at their numbers, right now they're in the top five in our league defensively and he's part of that. He's certainly having a real good year. He's having a year that a lot of us that follow sports are used to a guy like Julius Peppers having."

What kind of problems does he present individually?

Payton: "He presents problems two-fold; obviously we want to throw the football and we have to be able to account for him in protection and he's to the blind-side of the quarterback. From a protection standpoint, we have to be mindful as to how we're going to control or contain that rush. Then in the run game, he's someone that can chase a play down from the backside. He has found a way in his career – if you go back, he has made a ton of plays and forced a lot of turnovers away from a play. That's a strength of his."

What did you think of the way Tampa Bay played them last week?

Payton: "That was a game that Tampa Bay got up pretty quick on them. Trying to watch it on film it was 14-0 before you were into it too long. The turnovers in the end were the difference and generally they are each week. But again those two teams know each other well – they've had some good battles. It was a game where Tampa played and I'm sure Carolina didn't play as well as they wanted to and they move on."

Was there any advantage to having the New Orleans VooDoo here at the facility and having the AFL players running through?

Payton: "I don't know. Obviously there was a group of other players in that you kept an eye on. I think the advantage was really for our city, our fans and the players that played and the coaches that coached the VooDoo. In regards to how it benefited us specifically, that would be hard to say."

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