The following are transcripts from Wednesday's Bengals press conferences and conference calls between Panthers head coach John Fox and running back Jonathan Stewart with the Cincinnati media.
"It starts with the two running backs (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart). They're very, very good football players. They run hard, have speed and elusiveness, break tackles, make you miss tackles. So it starts there. We've got to do a great job there. Steve Smith is obviously one of the best wide receivers in the National Football League – not better, one of the best. He plays hard, competes, makes tough catches, makes vertical catches, runs well after the catch, and he's always a force to be reckoned with. He didn't get to play much in the preseason. Unfortunately now, we're probably getting his legs under him a little bit and going.
"The other receivers, they've kind of been working with some guys who've played, and some young guys, including (Dwayne) Jarrett, who played last year for him. So they'll kind of mix and match with some young guys who have some speed and some size to them. We've got to do a good job. Their tight ends are good receivers. They put the young quarterback in, (Jimmy) Clausen, and they're going to try to be efficient with the football. This is a team that uses screens and things like that quite a bit, to try to move the chains and give them more opportunity for plays, so we've got to be conscious of that.
"On special teams, they have two hard-running returners, much like the guys we saw last week with Baltimore, and we have to do a good job of tackling and (having) leverage in the kicking game. We want to be just as good with our specialists as we've been, and keep getting better in that area, get our returners off and going, and be more consistent with that and our blocking to allow us more chances to improve field position that way.
"They are a pretty athletic defensive group. They do a lot of movement, some blitzing, and try to keep you off balance with a lot of first-down pressures and things like that. So we've got to a good job of identification, manning up on these guys and getting them blocked, and provide opportunities in the pass game. They zig and zag a lot, and we've got to stay on them and just keep blocking and blocking until you can start creating some movement and so forth, so that's the challenge. Don't get frustrated, don't flinch, and just keep going."
You're facing a rookie quarterback in Jimmy Clausen. You've got tape on him, but can it give you problems that you don't know that much about him?
"I don't think so. I think you defend the offense just like you always do."
On overall team health:
"I think last week, I had basically 52 guys that were ready to play and we'll see how we go this week. I think the only guy that was unable to play last week was Jon Fanene, and we'll see how we are this week."
What about Keith Rivers?
"Keith was able to play last week. I chose not to play him. Keith expected to play, but he didn't practice and didn't show me enough. I think by Friday and Saturday, he was ready to turn the corner, but I thought it was important that we had guys out there that had taken the snaps and the reps and were able to contribute on special teams as well. We'll see how we are this week."
Do you expect Adam (Jones) to be able to practice this week?
"We'll see. He'll be able to practice some, but we'll see how he is."
Is like another AFC North matchup?
"I think their success through the years has been with being able to rush the football, and being very efficient in throwing the football. They've been very low in turnovers, and they've been successful defensively. They've been able to apply pressure and do those things, so I think they're put together that way. That's how they've been successful.
"It's a team that was in the playoffs two years ago. Last year they had a great finish to their season, a very, very strong finish to their season. They started out the season without (quarterback) Jake Delhomme, and (Matt) Moore started the season. Jake came back, and then Moore finished the season. They kind of did it with some changing parts.
"As we said when the schedule came out, we knew it was a well-put together football team, and one that was going to play physical at the line of scrimmage, and that's important for us. We need to play well at the line of scrimmage on offense and defense to be successful."
How different are their two running backs?
"They're somewhat similar. There's not a big difference like you could see a few years ago when we faced the Giants, where they had two featured backs that are a little bit different. Like Buffalo for instance, if you consider (Marshawn) Lynch and the kid from Clemson (C.J. Spiller), they're a little bit different style.
"These (Carolina) guys are very similar in stature, style. They're about the same height, and the same build, (same) speed. Both can really run. I don't think their plays (are different for each of them) very much. That's the other thing. As you look and analyze an opponent, and go through all the cut-ups and so forth of all the running game over the last two years, you don't see much change depending on who the back is. They're mostly the same plays. With some teams, there might be a change depending on who's in the backfield. Maybe one guy gets the ball more in the passing game, with screens and that kind of thing. But I think in these guys' case, it's pretty even."
On the Panthers having experienced some difficulties in the red zone:
"You just don't want to press. They've had two young quarterbacks, and they've got guys who are trying to win a job and keep a job, and everybody's pressing. If you don't score touchdowns down there all the time, then people say, "There's got to be something wrong with the quarterback,' so he throws the football into coverage and you don't get any points.
"On the other side, you've got to have an efficiency of operation with everyone, guys in the right spots, because coverage tightens up in the red zone and that makes a big difference. Steve (Smith) didn't have a lot of time on task with these guys in the preseason in live football. I'm sure he was practicing, but that makes a difference that their number one weapon outside didn't get a lot of snaps in the preseason games with the quarterback. So I think it's still a little bit of a work in progress with the whole thing."
On offensive penalties:
"We didn't have (many) penalties the first week, but then we had some last week, so we've got to clean them up and do a better job in cleaning them up, with concentration and so forth, and we will."
CARSON PALMERWhat stands out to you about Carolina's defense?
"I think looking at them, they're a defensive football team and they've been very strong defensively for a long time. They have some young, fast active players, very quick up front, but very good team speed. Two very good cover corners (Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall), and two very fast safeties (Charles Godfrey and Sherrod Martin). Their front seven is a physical group, but they can also run and cover sideline to sideline."
Where are you in your working with T.O.?
"We're still working at it. We work hard at it every day. We've only been throwing together within this offense for six, seven, eight weeks, so we're working hard at it, continuing to develop with each other. We're doing extra things in practice, running extra routes. He's always wanting to do more, and I love that because I always want to do something extra, too. I worry about guys running too much and getting themselves tired out on top of all the extra things they do in practice. We're still growing together and getting closer and closer as we get chances to practice."
It looked like the one route you're still trying to time up is that 2nd-and-1 on the second series, where it looked like an out route and it was short and not timed up. Is that because his timing is a little different?
"No. That was a great route by him. That was me, I missed him on that. That had nothing to do with timing."
How is he different?
"He's 6-4. There's Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss and himself. Most guys at that position are Chad (Ochocinco)'s size or Reggie Wayne's size. He covers so much more ground with each step that it's an adjustment with the depth of routes and timing of breaks, because he covers much more ground. Most routes are built on steps, and some guys run seven steps of 10 (yards), he runs seven steps of 13-14. The separation he can create, the speed with which he carries his routes in is amazing, and we've been working together for a little while now and getting closer. Pretty soon we're going to be clicking just like Chad and I have been. The way he runs his routes and the speed that he can carry a 60-yard route, there's some big play potential in that."
Different 6-4 guy than Chris Henry?
"Just different styles and type player, but similar in their stride length. Most guys can carry 3-4 yards a stride, and they carry almost five between two steps. That's great and means they're fast."
Both Chad and Terrell seemed frustrated (after Sunday), but knowing the style of offense that you play, do you think they need to put up huge numbers?
"We'd all love to put up huge numbers, but more than huge numbers, we love to win. Playing against the style of defense that we're playing, no one is going to go off for 180 yards, I don't know if a receiver has done that in a long time against the Ravens. They want the ball in their hands, and I want the ball in their hands too. I'm going to do what I can to do that without jeopardizing our team or putting our defense in a difficult situation. There's going to be highs and lows, situations where Chad has 12 catches like he did in Week 1 and T.O. could have it in the next few weeks. We're close as a group. They're going to have those big number games, probably not week in and week out, but one is going to have a big number game on a consistent basis."
This is the second straight year you've had a new receiving crew. How is this year going compared to last year?
"Completely dependent on the guys and their years in the league. How hard they can practice and how much they can practice. Some guys can't go. When you develop that rhythm and timing, you develop it with speed, and it's hard for some receivers to do it full speed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Because a lot of guys try to be ready for Sunday, and they don't want to get worn out in the middle of the week.
"I definitely don't want anyone feeling sore and not 100 percent by the time we get to game day, but with the guys that we have in two young rookies (Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham), they'll run as many routes as you ask them to. T.O. will run as many as you want him to. Last year, we had a different group of guys, but with this group, we're working at it every single day. I can't say there's a definitive date where everyone gets it, but we're working at it every single day and trying to get as close as possible."
On the progress of the rookies (Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shipley):
"A lot further ahead than any rookie I've worked with, both of them. There's really nothing you put into a game plan and worry about them being able to grasp. They understand the hot routes and the defensive fronts that change every week from 3-4 to 4-3. They have a great grasp of the game and are hard workers. They watch a ton of film and the older vets around them. It's definitely easy to say I haven't seen two rookies come in and pick it up as easily as they have."
TERRELL OWENSDoes Carolina look like same team you've faced in past years?
"Every year is different. Obviously, there are going to be different personnel from year to year. They have some new people on both sides of the ball. For ourselves you have to just go out, execute and eliminate some of the things that have kind of been hindering us from having great starts at the beginning of the game. That is something that I think will be a point of emphasis this week. I'm really trying to get off to a great start and put two halves together."
On the problems at the beginning of games:
"I think it all goes hand in hand, from penalties to sometimes mental mistakes, concentration and things. So those are things we need to clean up to be the team that I think this team desires to be. I know we have the talent to do it. We've just got to go out there and do it week in and week out. It has to be a concentrated effort."
Carson said you are unique because of your size, stride, and length. What do you guys do to work on this, and how close do you think you are with Carson?
"I think the biggest adjustment is for him. As you mentioned, my gait is different, my stride is different. Obviously, I am different from Chad (Ochocinco). You know, over my career, I think the things that have allowed me to be productive in offenses is because of my size and my ability and the things that I can do in an offense once I get my hands on the ball. We just have to continue with the repetitions in practice and keep working at it. Other than that, I can't shorten my stride up or slow down by any means. I practice at full speed and on game days, the energy level is a little amped. I tend to go a little faster on game days. It is something he has to adjust to and something I have to adjust to as well. So, it's still a work in progress.
"It is not like I am a hard target to throw to. I think he has been used to a certain style of receiver over a number of years, throwing to Chad and T.J. (Houshmandzadeh). I was just making a joke to him the other day – throwing to me, I am T.O., not T.J. (laughs). We both want to be successful. He wants to get the ball in my hands, as well as Chad and the other guys. It irks both of us when we misconnect on certain routes. This is what makes football and this game special, because you get to practice and correct those mistakes, knowing we have a lot of talent and can do a lot of things within the scheme of the offense."
Is that something you have seen at other stops, where it took time for them to adjust to you because you are a unique receiver?
"It's kind of been both ways. When I went from San Francisco to Philly, I had to adjust to Donovan (McNabb) because I was with Jeff Garcia (in San Francisco), who was pretty much a roll out of the pocket type passer. He wasn't a drop-back pocket passer throwing the ball 50-60 yards down the field. So, when I got to Philly my body language was used to Jeff. Once I got out there, I thought I could catch up to Donovan's balls and he was throwing it out there. It didn't take but one time for us to miss each other, and I came back to the huddle and (Andy) Reid and (receivers coach David) Culley, said, 'Hey, you don't have to slow down with this guy, this guy has a hose.' That is what I did. The same with (Tony) Romo, when I was there. Those guys realized I have an extra gear, and once I get to going I can pick up speed.
"That is something Carson has to adjust to. Sometimes it may look like I'm covered, but I can separate on the back end. As I've noticed since I've been here, there is a certain way that he throws go routes and different routes to Chad and T.J. and different guys throughout his career. It has been a bit of an adjustment for both of us. It's one of those things I think, as the season progress, it will connect. It's frustrating at times, because I know, even with last weekend, there are some things we didn't connect on. We ended up not scoring any touchdowns, but we ended up winning the game, which was good. But we saw there were a lot of more opportunities that we left on the field."
Is (Palmer) approachable?
"I think we knew it would be sort of an adjustment, and things we would need to work through over the course of the year. Again, that is where me not being in minicamps and OTAs factors in, because we didn't have that extra time together in the practice field to really know. Now we're just kind of hitting the field running. Carson is very approachable. We have an open line of communication. Even when we are with the offense or just quarterbacks, receivers, just going over things, we talk about a lot of things."
Do you have a preference playing home or away?
"No, not really. This is my 15th year, so I'm accustomed to it. I'm used to the regular season atmosphere, I'm used to the playoff atmosphere, and I've been fortunate enough to play in a Super Bowl atmosphere. For me, it's just lining up playing football. Where we play, we play."
On taking things from other receivers:
"At times I do. There are certain games I watch where if there's a good matchup between two teams, there are some dynamics on the defensive side of the ball you pay attention to as well as offensively. With that Carolina offense, I think everybody knows what Steve Smith brings to the table. He's a short, physical, stocky guy, and once he gets the ball in his hands, he's capable of doing some things with it and he can take the top off defenses as well. I think everyone on the defensive side of the ball is going to be aware of him and what he can do. I'm sure they're going to try to get the ball in his hands. They're going to try to get the running game going as well.
"Steve and I are good friends. We hung out in Australia this summer (winter in the U.S.), watching the Australian Open. I'm looking forward to seeing him. He's one of those guys you cannot help but pay attention to and watch. He's exciting."
On his unique physical stature:
"I'm sort of a hybrid. I think I can add a little finesse to my game, and obviously there's a physical presence there to my game as well. As I began to evolve and make my presence felt in this league since '96, I was fortunate and blessed to be able to play and practice and be around the best receiver in the game, and that's Jerry Rice. And so definitely, some of the things I've done over my career, I've definitely tried to pattern some of his route-running and things of that nature. But I can never be Jerry. I watched Michael Irvin along the way. Just being around Chad, I've been able to pick up some things with his route-running and how he sees things that help me as well. It's always me looking at different receivers, even some of the young guys like (Quan) Cosby and guys that were here in training camp. They get open and they've got different releases that they may have that allow them to get open and get the ball and separate. I incorporate that. I may not tell them, but I use that to my advantage, trust me. I'm always watching."
Have you ever been mauled in the end zone like you were Sunday and not gotten the call?
"Not too many times. That was one of those things that are unfortunate, and the refs missed it. In hindsight looking back at it, when I was pulled down, he (the official) was behind me, so he didn't really get a clear view of what was going on. At the same time, I didn't know where the other refs were, if they had a better view of what was going on versus the guy that missed the call. You would think that some other refs would have had a better view to see it. He clearly pulled me down, but it's one of those things that you miss and you move on."
On his physical stature working against him with penalties:
"Well yeah, it's one of those things. It's a Catch-22. Sometimes it works to your advantage, and sometimes it doesn't. You think about basketball, you look at what Shaq does when he gets the ball and he's just a big presence down there and just a little nudge will knock a guy across the floor. He gets a number of fouls that way. Some are warranted, some are not."
On his tweets with (Jets CB) Darrelle Revis:
"It's all in fun. My fans, and even people that aren't my fans, they get on my page and they get on me a little bit about a lot of stuff. Again, the media has made Revis into one of those guys to where they feel he can lock everybody down, so again I take my shots just as well as those guys take shots at me. But it's all in good fun."
Will the situation with Revis be magnified when the Bengals play the Jets?
"I hope it does. It's not like I'm going to be running away from the competition. It's not like I don't know it's on the schedule. I'm looking forward to the challenge. Come Thanksgiving, I hope he's healthy, so I'm looking forward to the challenge. It's going to be exciting. I've got my partner in crime Chad on the other side, so I'm looking forward to it."
PANTHERS HEAD COACH JOHN FOXMarvin talked at length on Monday about you two going back a ton of years:
"Yeah, I've known Marvin for a long time, I think way back even when he played college football. I'd say that's pretty long – not to be saying Marvin and I are old at all (laughs). It's been a few years."
The one year you were at Boise State as an assistant – Marvin was a player at Idaho State that year. You guys beat them, 22-13:
"Yeah, but he had the last laugh. I was actually there two years. I can't remember what year Marvin graduated, but it was '80 or '81. But in '81, they won the national championship and they beat us by a similar score. I don't know if Marvin had graduated by then or not. But we won the national championship in '80 and they won it in '81."
What was the USO trip like during June and July with you two being on it?
"Well I think it was great, twofold. Number one, I thought we had a great bunch: Brad Childress, Andy Reid, Marvin and myself. So we got along great and that makes any trip. But to be over there and see the commitment and sacrifice our troops are making, both from the infantry to even the leadership of the officers and generals is just amazing. We think we're a sport that demands a lot of commitment and sacrifice, and it does, but that might be the ultimate."
What was the determining factor in going from Matt (Moore) to Jimmy (Clausen) this week?
"Well, we're very young at the quarterback position. We've got two rookies and basically a third or fourth-year guy that has started eight games, so three quarterbacks with eight starts. It's not like we have a 10-year vet there or anything like that. I think we've played six games – four in the preseason and two in the regular – and we've had our share of struggles offensively. That's why we'll see if we can't get a spark from Jimmy."
Talk a little about Tony Pike and his progress:
"I haven't had a real long look, but I think he's a fine young talent. I like the young man. He's a high-character guy. What hurt him a little bit was with the NFL rules (players could not attend minicamps if they were still in school), so he misses a lot of the OTAs. It's really a few OTAs and a training camp. But I like his development. He works hard. He made a couple great throws today, actually, imitating Carson in practice. I think he's a fine young man and I think he has a lot of skills, and with time I think he can be a good quarterback in this league.
Did missing OTAs set him back?
"That would set anybody back. If you're going into a race and the other guys get those 10 practices and you don't … but it's just the system. It's the way it is. It's nobody's fault. He's caught up and I think he's done an outstanding job. But I'm sure if he had his druthers or I had my druthers, we'd have had all of those."
How close was it between him and Hunter (Cantwell) for that last spot?
"It was very close. We went with the younger guy. We'll see how that works out."
Talk about your receiving corps – there's been a lot of talk about how it's in transition right now:
"We're young there, too. Other than Steve (Smith), we've got Dwayne Jarrett, who has the most experience of anybody after Steve. After that we have three rookies. But there's some talent there. I think the Bengals will look at the tape and see we've developed some guys. (Brandon) LaFell didn't suit up last week because of a hamstring injury, so we'll see how he goes in practice today, see what tomorrow brings. I think the talent level's there. It's just getting all the skill set and experience down."
What do you think that's like for Steve Smith to look around be surrounded by young guys?
"I think it's a challenge for all of us. We're the youngest team in the National Football League. Like I said, the talent's there. It's just improving every week. I think we've made some growth from Week 1 to Week 2. The challenge is to have some more growth between Week 2 and Week 3."
You and Marvin are two of the longer tenured guys in the league at your teams, and both also happen to be in the last year of your contracts. How has that affected you or made you look upon this year?
"I don't really think about it much. I've been in the league 21 years. I've always been able to manage to find a job. I don't really worry about it. I don't look at it any different than if I had a player in the last year of his contract, I expect him to give me everything he's got. I know these guys expect me to give everything I have. This is business, it's still football. I still have a great passion for it. To be honest with you, all my focus is on the Bengals right now. I can hardly look ahead to next week, let alone after the season."
What's the biggest key for you guys improving in the red zone this week?
"Execution. I mean, it's no mystery. We've scored two touchdowns in six games. We've moved the ball fine. We've just had too many turnovers in two games and that's why we're 0-2. We were minus-1 and minus-3, so we're minus-4 in the turnover ratio. That's not the way to win games in this league."
You've had (running backs) DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart for a long time. What differences are there between the two backs?
"I think one's a little bit bigger and more powerful. They're both about the same, speed-wise, and they give us a one-two punch. Watch the tape and No. 33 (Mike Goodson) is in there now, so we have three guys, and he's got a different skill set. Our issues offensively aren't our running back position."
On the difficulties of when to play each back:
"Just keep them fresh. I think a lot people on the defensive line in this league have a wave of guys or a rotation. We kind of do the same thing with our running backs."
PANTHERS RUNNING BACK JONATHAN STEWARTWhat do you see with the Bengals defense?
"Today was the first day we got a look at them, but from what I see, they're aggressive when it comes to the run game. It seems like their linebackers like to flow a lot, so we can probably use that to our advantage. But they have a pretty good defense. A lot of them fly around to the ball, and they're physical. They've got (safety) Roy Williams. He's a hard hitter. I think they stand firm to being aggressive."
A lot of their defenders talked about stopping you and DeAngelo Williams. Are you guys used to all that attention?
"Yeah, we've seen nothing but eight and nine in the box, and sometimes 10. We're preparing ourselves day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out for eight and nine in the box, so hopefully we get our passing game going a little bit and try to limit the men in the box."
Do all those guys in the box wear on you two?
"I'm not really sure. I may be able to answer that question as I get older, but as of right now, it's all we know."
Your offense is a bunch of young guys, with the exception of Steve Smith. What's that like, especially with so many young receivers?
"We went through this last year early on, and I just think that the offense has to find its confidence and be quick to the ball, move like we've moving when we win games. I think we're close to that. We need to make plays, whether it's pass or run, and keep the defense off of the field as long as possible, because they're always working hard and I think we owe it to them to work as a team to win games."
Is there more pressure on you and DeAngelo because your wide receivers are so unproven outside of Smith?
"I don't really look at who has more pressure whether it's the quarterback, receivers, linemen or running backs. We're all in it together and everybody has to do their jobs in order for plays to be made. I think collectively everybody has taken responsibility for winning games."
What kind of lift did (Jimmy) Clausen give the offense against Tampa Bay?
"He made some decisive decisions. I think he had a lot of confidence coming into the fourth quarter, getting an opportunity late in the game. He's got a little fire to him. Everybody has seen him in college and the fire he had when he played there, and it's the same here when he was on the field. I think that's good for our offense right now, just getting someone in with a different type of character. He does a good job."