With DeAngelo Williams wearing pink shoes, Panthers ready to run _ finally

By Mike Cranston, AP
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

With Williams wearing pink, Panthers ready to run

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — DeAngelo Williams was a catalyst for the NFL’s decision to allow players to wear pink cleats to raise awareness for breast cancer. Then he and the Panthers were off with a bye when the initiative began last weekend.

Williams will be a week late donning pink Sunday against Washington, while the Carolina Panthers hope the Redskins game marks the day they finally get their running game in gear and record a win.

That would be coming a full month late.

“We’ve kind of been behind a little bit in the games so we’ve had to abandon the run game faster than we would have liked,” Williams said Wednesday. “We’ll see. Each game takes on a different beast all in its own. We’ll see if we can control the clock.”

A year after rushing for a franchise-record 1,515 yards and 18 touchdowns, and combining with Jonathan Stewart for the most yards rushing by NFL teammates since 1984, Williams’ numbers have declined in Carolina’s 0-3 start.

Williams has been held to 41 carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Williams is getting 13.7 carries a game after averaging 17 a year ago.

The Panthers, who last year attempted a league-low 25.9 passes a game, have been throwing it an average of 36 times this year — without success.

“That’s what we do, we run the ball,” right tackle Jeff Otah said. “We’ve got to start out running the ball strong at the beginning of the game and keep on doing it.”

Coach John Fox has attributed the decline in the rushing attempts to falling behind. That was the case in Carolina’s 38-10 loss to Philadelphia in Week 1. The Panthers were in games until late the next two weeks, yet had 41 passes to 25 runs against Atlanta and 33 passes to 16 runs against Dallas.

“I can’t call the plays, man,” Williams said. “Whether we’re running the ball or whether we’re passing the ball we have to make our plays. That’s something we’ve been inconsistent in, making our plays, as opposed to a year ago.”

The running game last season took off after the bye week, and Williams would like a similar breakout Sunday while he honors his mom’s successful battle with cancer.

Williams, who said he lost three aunts to the disease, didn’t know his mother was diagnosed until after she was treated.

“She got it removed and she’s been in remission,” Williams said. “She’s a five-year survivor.”

Williams has since done charity work for breast cancer awareness, and in July went to Panthers director of community relations Riley Fields about lobbying the league to let players wear pink cleats. The NFL had already planned to have pink-wrapped goalposts, wristbands and gloves, but hadn’t approved pink shoes.

The NFL decided to allow five or six players per team to wear pink cleats over two games. Williams and receiver Muhsin Muhammad, whose mother and mother-in-law are breast cancer survivors, are among the Panthers who will wear pink Sunday.

“She was flipping through the channels this weekend and she was calling me every time she saw somebody in pink,” Williams said of his mother. “It meant a lot to her, so I know it meant a lot to a lot of the cancer survivors and families out there.”

Wearing pink and facing the Redskins’ suspect run defense would seem to be the perfect platform for Williams and Carolina to get out of their running funk. The Redskins rank 22nd in the league against the run, and the Panthers would like to take pressure off quarterback Jake Delhomme, who has seven interceptions and two lost fumbles.

“We can’t throw a 30-yard or 40-yard bomb and on the next play we have a fumble or a pick or we jump offsides or do something to push us back 10 or 15 yards,” Williams said. “We’ve just got to be consistent at what we do.

“It’s not whether we run the ball more or less or that we pass the ball more or less. It’s just that we’re not making our plays on a consistent basis.”

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