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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Panthers have void to fill

Trainers tend to Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith after he broke his leg in the fourth quarter of a loss to the Packers on Monday night.
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Associated Press

Steve Smith had surgery Tuesday on his broken left leg, leaving the Carolina Panthers searching for replacements for their top receiver and punt returner.

Both candidates — Keary Colbert at receiver and Chris Gamble at returning kicks — are rookies.

“Obviously that’s a blow to lose a guy like Steve Smith,” coach John Fox said. “Obviously he’s a big-play guy for us both offensively and in the kicking game. But as is football, there (are) injuries.”

Smith, who signed a $27.5 million contract extension in the offseason, was Carolina’s gamebreaker. He led the Panthers last season with career highs in receptions (88), yards receiving (1,110) and touchdowns (seven). He also averaged 28.1 yards a kickoff return.

He broke his leg late in the fourth quarter of Carolina’s 24-14 Monday night loss to Green Bay when he rolled his ankle as he was being tackled after a catch.

Smith made his way through the locker room on a pair of steel crutches after the game, needing help from a Panthers staff member to put his sock and shoe on his good foot.

One by one, the rest of the Panthers made their way to his locker to check on him.

“Steve Smith is very special out there for us. He’s our home run hitter,” safety Mike Minter said. “We are definitely going to miss him.”

Fox said he was unsure how long Smith will be out, but a broken fibula typically takes at least eight weeks to heal.

Coleman gets football

New York Jets safety Erik Coleman, a graduate of Lewis and Clark High and Washington State University, got his souvenir football from the equipment manager and held it tightly.

A day after his game-saving interception sealed a 31-24 win over Cincinnati, Coleman still looked like a kid on his birthday.

He got the ball to commemorate his first career interception, and plans to give it to his mom because “she gets everything else.”

“It still feels good,” Coleman said.

The fifth-round pick out of WSU was pressed into starting at free safety because Jon McGraw was inactive with a groin injury, becoming the first Jets rookie to start the opening game at the position since Fred Julian in 1960.

Coleman will start again Sunday against San Diego in place of McGraw, who was upgraded to probable but ruled out as a starter by coach Herman Edwards.

Until the final play, Coleman may have been best remembered for giving up the 53-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Chad Johnson. Sensing Coleman might get down on himself, defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson delivered a clear message.

“If you give up one, you got to get one back,” Henderson said.

Coleman did.

Saints bolt for San Antonio

The New Orleans Saints joined the mass exodus of people fleeing the Big Easy and moved their base of operations to San Antonio, far from the reach of approaching Hurricane Ivan.

The team will continue its practice and meeting schedule in San Antonio today, Thursday and Friday. The Saints will return to New Orleans Friday afternoon for Sunday’s game in the Superdome against the San Francisco 49ers.

Around the league

Titans guard Zach Piller might miss the rest of the season after having surgery to repair his ruptured left biceps. Piller underwent surgery and is expected to be out three to five months. … Cleveland running back Lee Suggs has been cleared by doctors to return to practice this week. … Minnesota tight end Jim Kleinsasser will miss the next two weeks after an MRI revealed his right knee injury was worse than originally thought. The Vikings thought Kleinsasser, who was hurt in Sunday’s season opener against Dallas, hyperextended his knee. But an MRI revealed damage to his anterior cruciate ligament. … Dallas released defensive tackle Daleroy Stewart to clear a roster spot for starting nose tackle Leonardo Carson now that he’s eligible to join the club. Carson was suspended from the opener without pay for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. … Running back Dorsey Levens returned to Philadelphia, signing a one-year deal a little more than a week after the Eagles released him. The Eagles also signed tackle Ian Allen, placed guard Shawn Andrews on injured reserve and released safety Clinton Hart. … Detroit wide receiver Charles Rogers was placed on injured reserve after breaking his collarbone in the season opener at Chicago, ensuring that he will miss the entire season. … The Vikings added a pair of cornerbacks, signing Terrance Shaw and Ralph Brown. Shaw played with Oakland last season, while Brown was cut by Washington in the preseason. … The Titans signed veteran kicker Gary Anderson, the NFL’s all-time leading scorer. … General manager Terry Donahue signed a four-year contract extension with the San Francisco 49ers. … Glenn Presnell, who starred for Detroit in the 1930s and later spent 28 years as a college head coach and athletic director at Eastern Kentucky, is dead at 99.