- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As it's been a week full of stories about former Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith, it seems appropriate that my Saturday mailbag begins with a question about the current Baltimore Ravens star.
Let's get right to it as the Panthers prepare for Sunday's 1 p.m. game at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium:
— Earl (@Tha_GR8T_1) September 25, 2014
@DNewtonESPN: If he is, he hasn't said anything to me or any other reporter. The only time Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman has spoken to the media since the season began was to announce defensive end Greg Hardy would be on the commissioner's exempt list until his domestic violence case was resolved. The only person that speaks less than Gettleman to the media is team owner Jerry Richardson. Do I wish he spoke more? Yes. He has great insight, as we heard in the Hardy news conference. But if he spoke on Smith, I doubt he would apologize for anything. Look, letting a longtime player and fan favorite go never is easy. Could it have been handled better, in that Smith could have been told what was going down earlier? Perhaps. But as Gettleman has reminded many times, we often don't know all the facts until years down the road -- if ever. Ultimately, Gettleman got the leaders he wanted in Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant and the young, dynamic receiver he wanted in Kelvin Benjamin. That's probably what he would focus on if he spoke about this.
— Chris Thomas (@cthomas_4) September 25, 2014
@DNewtonESPN: None. Cam Newton still gives Carolina the best chance to win. Having said that, if the Panthers aren't willing to turn loose Newton as a runner -- or if he's not able to run as he once did -- I can't argue with those who say Derek Anderson should play. As a pure passer, Anderson is better than Newton. If you're going to make Newton into a dropback passer and not let him show he's at least a threat to run, you're hindering his effectiveness and allowing teams to gang up on the running backs. One of Newton's biggest assets has been keeping defenses off-balance because of his threat to run. Having said that, Newton has been effective as a passer with a 66.7-percent completion percentage and no interceptions. The most alarming stat is that he's been sacked seven times. Anderson was sacked once in the opener.
— Chris Thomas (@cthomas_4) September 25, 2014
@DNewtonESPN: Normally, I try to limit it to one question per person, but both of yours intrigued me so I'm bending my rule. It wasn't that long ago that offensive coordinator Mike Shula was praised for what he did last season. That he began this season with an injured quarterback, new wide receivers and basically a new offensive line can't be forgotten.
— John Kitsock (@johnny_cashhhh) September 25, 2014
@DNewtonESPN: Both those ships have sailed. And even if left tackle Jordan Gross wanted to come out of retirement, by the time he gained back the 70 or so pounds he's lost, the season might be over. Your suggestion of running back might make more sense. But then you remember Gross admittedly lost a 40-yard race with Travelle Wharton after their final practice last season and realize that wouldn't be such a good idea.
@DNewtonespn do you think Rivera's demeanor has changed a little this year? He seems different in his pressers this year vs past years.
— SalesMan (@95KeepPounding) September 25, 2014
@DNewtonESPN: Good observation. The Greg Hardy situation is at the root of this. That Gettleman has left the fourth-year coach to handle the media and public scrutiny -- after saying in July all comments about Hardy would come through him -- has led to this. Ron Rivera also has dealt with a lot concerning Newton's injuries. I will say this, though. Rivera has seemed more like his old self this week as some sense of normalcy has returned with Hardy on the commissioner's exempt list and the focus back on football.
— Kurt Zamora (@FriscoKTank) September 25, 2014
@DNewtonESPN: Kony Ealy is still a rookie, and just because he isn't getting sacks doesn't mean he's not contributing. Defensive end Charles Johnson, third on Carolina's all-time sack list, doesn't have a sack, either. And he's still making major contributions, taking on more double-teams to open up lanes for other pass rushers and being consistent against the run. Now if you're asking if I expected more out of Ealy? Yes, particularly with Hardy gone. That he's not says something about the depth Carolina has at defensive end, although it didn't look so good last week.
— Garrett Waits (@GarrettWaits) September 25, 2014
@DNewtonESPN: I don't think you're alone with that sentiment. And that's a good place to stop.