Panthers remain cautious with WR Smith

Steve Smith hasn't practiced in consecutive days for the Carolina Panthers.

Carolina Panthers' wide receiver Steve Smith hasn't participated in consecutive practices and may miss Sunday's preseason game at the New York Jets, pending what the doctors say Friday.

Panthers' coach Ron Rivera said the swelling in Smith's infected left foot hadn't gone down by the end of Thursday's practice at Bank of America Stadium, and that he will be evaluated again Friday before a decision is made regarding Sunday's contest.

"Steve's gotten better," Rivera said. "He's gotten a round of antibiotics in him, so hopefully he will be ready to go, but we will wait and see how things are."

Obviously, the Panthers will take precautionary measures with Smith, a potential Hall of Fame receiver who in his 12th season and remains the team's best pass-catcher.

"Putting him out there right now in this set of circumstances would not be smart, especially if he doesn't get his practice reps," Rivera said. "In terms of what we do, this is really a game plan week for us. We're approaching this as if we would any regular season game. We do have a full game plan in offense and defense and special teams. To put a guy out there when he hasn't had a chance to get those reps would be careless."

Smith has caught 699 passes for 10,278 yards, 59 touchdowns and played in five Pro Bowls. If he doesn't play Sunday, it would only mean more opportunities for the team's brass to examine an intense battle at wide receiver for the depth-chart spots below Smith and third-year receiver Brandon LaFell, who has cemented himself as the other starting wideout.

In contention for the few remaining spots are Louis Murphy, who came over from the Oakland Raiders, second-year man Kealoha Pilares, former Appalachian State star Armanti Edwards, holdover Ajirotutu Seyi, Arkansas rookie Joe Adams, and David Gettis, who has missed all of camp because of an injury, but caught 37 passes as a rookie in 2010.

Adams, because he was drafted in part as a kick returner, and Murphy likely have roster spots sewn up. The other battles will heat up as the players get more repetitions Sunday night.

Davis Making Progress

Veteran linebacker Thomas Davis, who is trying to become the first player in NFL history to come back from three ACL surgeries, continues to make progress. Thursday was no exception.

"Thomas had a very good day," Rivera said. "He took another big step, and again, we continue to increase his reps; he moved around very well. He actually took a big shot today, and ended up rolling around, popped back up and took off running.

"That was one of those hold-your-breath things, to be honest. It was good to see, it really was, to be honest."

Davis stepped over an offensive lineman and rolled up, but he quickly recovered and practiced the rest of the way.

In his first four seasons, Davis played in 62 of 64 games, registered 329 tackles and 10 sacks. But since the conclusion of the 2008 season, Davis has played in just nine contests registering 73 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Alexander Proud of Sack

Rookie defensive end Frank Alexander was excited to finally notch his first NFL sack in last Friday's 23-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Alexander, a 6-foot-4, 270-pounder out of Oklahoma, picked up 20.5 sacks for the sooners in his four-year career, three of which saw Alexander start.

"It felt great just to get your first sack in the NFL," Alexander said. "Even though it was the preseason, it's still an accomplishment. So you want to continue going out there to work hard and get those sacks."

Oklahoma has produced many excellent defensive linemen over time, and Alexander said he was well prepared for the NFL. But he also reminds that this is the NFL. It's a different level.

"It got you ready for the NFL," he said about OU, "but the NFL is a different level and you've got to come with it every day mentally and physically."

Rivera has praised Alexander often during camp, saying he's improved his technique a lot and continues to focus on it. The coach also says the athletic Alexander "adds a little excitement."

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