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PANTHERS NOTEBOOK: Panthers feel healthy after bye week, ready to take 3-0 record to Knoxville

ALBANY — Two weeks ago, John Harris couldn’t run without pain shooting through his thigh.

Now the former Americus-Sumter star and Panthers wide receiver can’t wait to get back on the field.

Harris is one of several Panthers who took advantage of last week’s bye, which gave several ailing players a chance to rest their bodies in anticipation for a stretch of six games in six weeks.

Harris was so banged up, he didn’t even play in the third game of the season against Louisiana, which the Panthers won to move to 3-0.

“When I tried to run full speed and gave it everything I got, it hurt me to the point where I felt I couldn’t run,” said Harris, who had a thigh bruise.

What a difference some time off makes.

“Now it feels wonderful,” Harris said. “I have been going to treatment for two weeks, lifting weights and doing everything the trainer has told me to do. He has me playing good right now.”

Harris wasn’t the only one ready to step away from football for a week. Fullback Derrick Wimbush, linebacker Ryan Babb and center Terrance Smith were suffering from injuries that were threatening playing time.

Wimbush, who had a sore knee, went back home to Tampa during the bye week and rested his body.

“I just got into the pool and worked my muscles out and worked my soreness out,” Wimbush said. “You get massages and stuff like that, but you still have to work out, too. You still have to keep your body in shape and ready for the game.”

It wasn’t just the players’ bodies that needed to get reenergized.

“It gives us time to recoup mentally,” Panthers coach Lucious Davis said. “The season wears on you because you have to bring a certain intensity every day.”

During his week off, Davis watched film of the first three games of the season multiple times.

“I analyze myself,” he said. “I analyze the way we prepared, and I look at each player individually.”

And despite the fact that the Panthers are the only undefeated team in the PIFL going into Saturday’s game against winless Knoxville, Davis saw a lot of room for improvement.

At this time last year, he could see confidence and discipline in his team, but three games into this season Davis believes the Panthers aren’t disciplined on the field.

“It looks like there is a lot of arrogance instead of confidence out there,” he said.

82 AND COUNTING: Damian Daniels isn’t in the opposing team’s huddles when they are calling plays.

It just seems that way.

Albany’s star safety, who came to the Panthers over the offseason after spending his first six years with rival Columbus, has 82 career interceptions and is 14 away from tying the arena football record held by Kenny McEntyre.

Daniels' secret is simple — never stop studying.

“I try to watch as much film as I can to try to have a lot of knowledge of opposing teams and the quarterback,” said Daniels, who has two interceptions in three games this season. “I try to get a feel of what is going on so I’m not out there guessing. A lot of times when I make a play, I know what is coming before it happens.”

Daniels, a four-time league defensive player of the year, has played a huge part in a Panthers defense that lost some key components from last year’s squad.

“He has meant a lot,” Davis said. “We have that veteran in the middle that can handle it, so it means a lot to our defensive unit.”

Daniels, who went to college at West Georgia, said he didn’t think much about the record until this season.

McEntyre, nicknamed “The Glove,” retired last year and built up his interception total during a 12-year arena football career. He began his career in the NFL but never made it out of a practice squad. He played a few seasons in NFL Europa before settling in with the Orlando Predators of the AFL.

It’s conceivable Daniels could break the record this season if he continues the torrid pace he has been on throughout his career, and Davis would love to see his new safety get it done in a Panthers uniform.

“It would be great for us,” Davis said. “I think maybe 12 of those came against us, so it would be great to see him do it in our uniform because that means he is giving us extra possessions.”