CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith has been ruled out for Sundays game against the Atlanta Falcons. Panthers coach Ron Rivera made the announcement following Fridays practice, adding that running back Jonathan Stewart (knee) and defensive tackle Colin Cole (calf) will not play either. Smith sprained his left knee during Carolinas 17-13 win over New Orleans last Sunday. The win assured the Panthers a playoff spot, but this weeks game looms even larger. Carolina (11-4) can wrap up the NFC South division title and a first-round bye by beating the Falcons. "Steve has actually improved a lot," Rivera said. "In Steves way he basically said if I had to I would play this weekend. He probably couldnt, but he would try." Rivera, however, said the team doesnt want to risk losing Smith for the playoffs. "Not a chance," Rivera said. "Its about going forward. This game is very important and we know it. But there are other things ahead, too." Rivera said if the Panthers dont win the NFC South and secure a first-round bye, he expects Smith would be ready to play next Sunday in the wild-card round of the playoffs. Smith leads the team with 67 receptions for 774 yards and five touchdowns. Ted Ginn Jr. is expected to start at wide receiver for Smith, but Domenik Hixon will see increased action. Falcons coach Mike Smith acknowledged earlier in the week his team will probably alter how it defends the Panthers if Smith doesnt play. "Steve Smith is one of the most competitive, not just wide receivers, football players that Ive been fortunate enough or, weve been fortunate enough, to compete against," Smith said. "He brings a lot of energy. He brings a lot of passion to the way he plays the game. You do defend a little bit differently when Steve Smith is in the game based on where hes aligned and what the down and distance is, because to me hes one of the marquis wide receivers still in the NFL." Rivera said hes interested to see what Brandon LaFell will do as Carolinas primary wide receiver. LaFell is third on the team in receptions with 49 for 627 yards and five touchdowns. "Brandon has done nothing but take strides and get better as a football player," Rivera said. "And it will also be good to see as far as Ted Ginn is concerned and Domenik Hixon. These three guys have done some really good things for us. It will help us gauge where were at." The Panthers are also expected to lean heavily on tight end Greg Olsen, who has 64 receptions for 747 yards and four touchdowns. NOTES: Safety Robert Lester was added to the injury report Friday as questionable after getting his ankle stepped on at practice. <a href="http://www.shopjerseysravens.com/Womens-Dallas-Clark-Authentic-Jersey/">Dallas Clark</a>. You can catch all of the action live on TSN with coverage beginning at 9:30pm et/6:30pm pt. Few teams looked as unbeatable as the Ducks at the start of the season. But after a dominating effort for a good part of the season, Anaheim started to slip a bit heading into the Olympic break and had posted a mark of just 14-12-3 during a 29-game span from Jan. <a href="http://www.shopjerseysravens.com/Womens-Courtney-Upshaw-Authentic-Jersey/">Courtney Upshaw</a>. But how about Buffalo Bills QB Thad Lewis coming off the far end of the bench and pushing an established Cincinnati Bengals team into overtime? I thought it would be an easy Cincinnati win but the Bills are better than their 2-4 record. <a href="http://www.shopjerseysravens.com/Womens-Jeromy-Miles-Authentic-Jersey/">http://www.shopjerseysravens.com/Womens-Jeromy-Miles-Authentic-Jersey/</a>. Bills GM Doug Whaley proved to be bold, trading up five spots to get one of the four real blue-chip players in the draft, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins at No. 4 overall. The problem is they gave up a ton to do it, surrendering next years first-round pick to Cleveland in order to jump up five spots. "You have a young quarterback in EJ Manuel; a talented kid. Now they want to surround him with a weapon, and they went and the premier wide receiver in this draft," NFL Draft analyst Mike Mayock said. <a href="http://www.shopjerseysravens.com/Womens-Darian-Stewart-Authentic-Jersey/">Darian Stewart</a>. Writing in British newspaper The Sunday Times in his first media comments since his departure, Moyes says "another possibility is that I may choose to have a break and enjoy watching and observing football throughout the world. <a href="http://www.shopjerseysravens.com/Womens-Timmy-Jernigan-Authentic-Jersey/">Timmy Jernigan</a>. -- Milos Raonic and Aleksandra Wozniak continued successful injury comebacks as each advanced into the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open on Monday to next face reigning Grand Slam champions.VANCOUVER -- For at least a few hours, the Vancouver Whitecaps could put the Camilo Sanvezzo saga aside. As their best player continued to orchestrate his dramatic exit from the club, the Whitecaps added size and creativity at Thursdays Major League Soccer SuperDraft. Vancouver had two picks in the first seven, taking defender Christian Dean at No. 3 before adding midfielder Andre Lewis at No. 7. "Being selected is a dream come true," said Dean. "Especially a team on the West Coast, growing up in California ... (Vancouver is) close to home." Hearing a player actually wanting to be with the club should come as welcome news for fans of the Whitecaps, who are now resigned to the fact that Sanvezzo -- the flashy Brazilian striker who won the 2013 MLS Golden Boot -- will be sold to a Mexican team after forcing Vancouvers hand. And its not only Dean who is happy about his new team. "My mom is ecstatic," he added. "I think shes happier than I am." The 20-year-old from East Palo Alto was selected using the pick Vancouver acquired in the July 2012 trade that sent striker Eric Hassli to Toronto FC. Dean spent the last three seasons with the NCAAs California Golden Bears, starting all 55 games he played. "I bring energy. Big, athletic, on the larger side," said Dean, who stands six foot three and weighs 198 pounds. "Good feet -- especially at centre back, I kind of pride myself a little bit on that. Its something that I like to use to my advantage." The Philadelphia Union, who hosted the draft, traded up to take Connecticut goalkeeper Andre Blake with the first pick before D.C. United used the second selection to take defender Steve Birnbaum, who was Deans college teammate at Cal. "I dont know much about Philly," said Blake, who originally hails from Jamaica. "I heard something yesterday about how its the place for a cheesesteak or something. Thats as much as I know. But Im pretty sure Ill get adjusted and learn everything I need to know." Meanwhile, the Montreal Impact took Creighton defender Eric Miller with the fifth pick, FC Dallas took Calgary-born striker Tesho Akindele from the Colorado School of Mines at No. 6, and Toronto FC traded up to draft Xavier defender Nick Hagglund at No. 10. Left-footed with the ability to play either in the centre or left of defence, Dean said he will have to increase the physical side of his game against MLS competition. "I think I will have to adapt. College was a physical game, especially stepping up from the youth level to college, it got more physical," he said on a conference call. "I think playing against bigger and stronger people, Ill have to become a lot more physical and to do that Ill just have to make a little mental jump." Dean might just get that chance as Vancouvers backline has at least one hole heading into training camp next month with the retirement of Y.P. Lee. Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit doesnt have a contract for 2014, but new head coach Carl Robinson has said he wwants to bring the veteran back into the fold.dddddddddddd "I think Im ready to come in and play, wherever I would have ended up," said Dean, who suited up as a centre back in college this season after two years on the left. "Especially with Vancouver, coming in the defence will be something that will be a possibility for me." Robinson said the Whitecaps had Dean rated high on their draft board and were delighted to see him available when it was Vancouvers turn to pick at No. 3. "Christian is a fantastic athlete. I think it was clear for everyone to see at the combine, as well as throughout the college season, that he was a fantastic prospect," said Robinson. "Hes got a lot to learn, but hes got a good head on his shoulders." Dean has never been to Vancouver and said that he wasnt tipped off during pre-draft discussions with the club that the Whitecaps would be his destination. "I talked to the coaching staff while I was at the combine during one of the player meetings and hit it off," he said. "Other than that there was no real talk of Hey, well select you or stuff like that. "It was kind of a bit of a surprise, but in the end Im happy that I got picked by Vancouver." Lewis was also pleased to be joining the Whitecaps, but for different reasons. "Im a fan of Vancouver because of Darren Mattocks," the 19-year-old said of the Whitecaps striker and fellow Jamaican. "I love the support that the fans give to Vancouver. Im looking forward to starting my professional career with the Whitecaps and to just go there and work hard and do my best." Lewis said he and Mattocks live about 10 minutes apart but that pair didnt speak about the possibility of being teammates in MLS. The five-foot-nine, 145-pound midfielder, who will join the Whitecaps from Jamaican club Portmore United F.C. when pre-season training begins next week, represented his country at the under-17 and under-20 levels before earning his first senior call up in 2012. "On the pitch, I always want to be a top player," said Lewis. "Win or lose, I want to be on top of my game at all times." Robinson said that like Whitecaps striker Kekuta Manneh -- a player that Vancouver selected fourth overall at last years draft -- Lewis has "something special." "I think hes got a fantastic football brain," said Robinson. "Hes got a fantastic understanding of the game for someone so young and he was a prospect that we wanted to make sure we got on board." Notes: As a Generation Adidas player, Deans salary will not count against the MLS salary cap. ... Dean said he is friends with Whitecaps striker Omar Salgado from their time with the U.S. under-20 team. ... In the second round, Toronto selected Elon midfielder Daniel Lovitz at No. 24, Vancouver took Connecticut striker Mamadou Diouf at No. 30 and Montreal went with Cal Poly midfielder George Malki at No. 37. ... The third and fourth rounds of the draft take place on Tuesday. ' ' '
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