Football briefs: Panthers WR Hackett not getting started in Carolina

Pro Football Weekly staff

The Way We Hear It: Panthers WR Hackett not getting started in Carolina

One of the Panthers’ most-prized free-agent signings from the offseason, WR D.J. Hackett, has yet to participate in a preseason game and missed much of training camp with a toe injury. It’s not expected to keep him sidelined into the regular season, although the fifth-year veteran does have a reputation of being injury-prone

The larger concern, the way we hear it, is that Week One could be the first time he takes the field with QB Jake Delhomme in a game situation. Carolina’s top target, WR Steve Smith, will be out for the first two regular-season games serving a suspension, and the team is counting on Hackett to help fill the playmaking void. With a lack of familiarity and preparation time, Hackett and Delhomme may find it hard to connect with each other early on. Delhomme isn’t expected to play in the final preseason game, so Hackett and Delhomme will not play together in a game prior to the start of the regular season.

Hackett isn’t the only member of the Panthers’ receiving corps who has been beaten up. Muhsin Muhammad has been nursing an injury to his ribs, but he’s expected to be the squad’s No. 1 target with Smith out.

NFL whispers

STEELERS: Our sources in Pittsburgh have fully endorsed the Steelers’ decision to make Santonio Holmes their punt returner this season. Holmes had been requesting a shot at the return duties, but coaches had been resistant because of concerns that it would be too much of an injury and fatigue risk since they’re counting on him to deliver in the passing game, as well. It’s a gamble to have such a productive receiver on special-teams units, but Holmes’ big-play ability proved too tempting in this case.

SEAHAWKS: If Seahawks fans have their way, we hear there would be no way diminutive seventh-round RB Justin Forsett would not make the team. Forsett, who accumulated 261 all-purpose yards in the preseason game against the Bears, has quickly become a crowd favorite. At the same time, we hear the natives have been more than a little restless regarding newly acquired veteran RB T.J. Duckett, who had failed to show much of an ability to move the pile halfway through the preseason.

TEXANS: There are whispers that if Texans RB Ahman Green does not prove he’s healthy before Week One, he could be in danger of not making the final roster. Green injured his groin on the first play of the preseason and hasn’t been back in action since. Houston is likely to use a committee approach regardless, but they’d certainly prefer to have Green’s experience as part of their backfield.

The Fantasy Buzz

- Week Three of the preseason was both kind and unkind for quarterbacks named Matt. The lucky Matt was Falcons QB Matt Ryan, who was officially named Atlanta’s starter. Like most rookie signalcallers, Ryan will take his lumps this season, but he certainly has nice keeper-league value. Meanwhile, Cardinals QB Matt Leinart wasn’t as fortunate, as Kurt Warner was reportedly tabbed to start in Week One. Once the Cardinals make this move official, Warner now becomes a solid fantasy grab, while Leinart appears to be nothing more than a late-round flier.

- The Eagles’ offense took a big hit last week when top WR Kevin Curtis underwent sports hernia surgery, sidelining him for roughly 6-8 weeks. With Curtis out, Reggie Brown steps into the No. 1 role and should be a frequent target early for QB Donovan McNabb. Rookie DeSean Jackson also gets a fantasy boost, as he likely will move into the starting lineup. Jackson has speed to burn and could become the deep threat that Philly has been lacking.

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