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Panthers Waive RB Natrone Means

October 25, 2000

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Carolina’s two biggest offseason signings went bust Wednesday when the Panthers waived running back Natrone Means.

The move comes on the heels of coach George Seifert placing Chuck Smith on injured reserve, ending the defensive end’s season.

Smith, signed to a five-year $21.75 million contract in the offseason, played in only two games for the Panthers.

Means never carried the ball at all.

Means, a Charlotte-area high school star, signed a one-year deal during the offseason to back up Tshimianga Biakabutuka. But he was never healthy and was active for only one game. He was used on two kickoff returns in a win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Seifert was unavailable to comment on Means’ release, which came a few hours after a practice in which the running back participated.

Smith and Means were the two biggest additions Seifert brought in during the offseason. He added defensive ends Reggie White and Eric Swann during training camp, but the two earlier signings were the big offseason news.

Earlier Wednesday, Seifert defended his signing of Smith and insisted the Panthers didn’t get damaged goods when they brought him in.

``I’m disappointed he’s not playing, disappointed in the way it’s all worked out, but guys get hurt on the field all the time,″ Seifert said.

Smith, expected to be the cornerstone of Carolina’s defensive rebuilding efforts, had just one tackle and no sacks in two games. He was placed on injured reserve on Monday.

Smith, 30, had reconstructive knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 1995 while with the Atlanta Falcons. Seifert said he passed Carolina’s physical before the Panthers signed him in February.

``He was given a physical and we got his records and evaluated them and the sense was there was no problem, but I feel confident we were given the right info,″ Seifert said.

But Smith needed arthroscopic surgery shortly after arriving in Carolina, and Seifert said Wednesday the procedure was needed because Smith was injured while a member of the Panthers.

``It happened somewhere around our first minicamp,″ he said.

Seifert also said for the first time Wednesday that doctors knew Smith had arthritis in his knee but thought ``it was manageable.″

Smith played just one preseason game and very rarely practiced. He played in the season opener, was inactive the next week, then played in Week 3 in a loss to Atlanta.

But his knee was so sore and swollen after the game against the Falcons, he went to see specialist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. Andrews recommended 2-3 weeks of rest, and Smith had been rehabbing in Birmingham ever since.

When Seifert spoke with Smith on Monday, he said the defensive end told him his knee was not recovering well and an operation would probably be needed.

``I didn’t know it would develop to this extent and linger on,″ Seifert said.

Also Wednesday, Atlanta coach Dan Reeves said the Falcons thought Smith was healthy enough that they tried to re-sign him during the offseason.

``When I came here chuck had a knee that had been a problem for him, but he played,″ Reeves said. ``He was always able to come around to play on Sunday, so we still tried very hard to sign him because a lot of people play hurt.″

Smith, who had 10 sacks for the Falcons last season, has always maintained that the Falcons never made him a serious offer to stay.