CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Keyshawn Johnson has had a rough couple of weeks.

The normally sure-handed receiver dropped what probably would have been a touchdown pass in the third quarter of Carolina’s game against Dallas two weeks ago. The Panthers were outscored 25-0 from that point and lost to the Cowboys 35-14.

Hoping to get some rest during the ensuing bye week, Johnson returned to his native Los Angeles, where he got sick. He flew back to Charlotte the next day to see the doctor.

“I cross my fingers that there’s another one coming up soon,” Johnson said of the bye.

But the only way that will happen is if the Panthers win the NFC South title and get a first-round playoff bye. At 4-4, Carolina sits in third place in its division, and Johnson knows he has to play better for the Panthers to reach the playoffs at all.

“I want to have a better second half than I had the first half,” said Johnson, who has only five catches in the past two games. “The last couple of weeks I kind of fell off a little bit in production. I want to pick up where I started in the beginning of the year so I can help this team.”

Johnson, signed by Carolina in the offseason, provided an immediate spark in the first two weeks when Steve Smith was sidelined with a hamstring injury. When Smith returned, the Panthers won four straight games with both receivers playing key roles.

But the Panthers have since lost two in a row, and have been shut out in the second half of both games. One of the surprising elements of Carolina’s meltdown against Dallas was seeing Johnson drop Jake Delhomme’s perfectly thrown ball with the Panthers leading 14-10.

“You can’t drop the football when you’ve got a guy beat,” Johnson said. “At that point, you go up 21-10, and the fact that it’s me scoring, the air goes out.”

Johnson has taken the blame for the Panthers’ collapse.

“There’s certain people on this team that others feed off of, that have that Energizer bunny in their pocket,” Johnson said. “When something goes bad for him, then everything goes bad for them, and then (stuff) just unravels.”

Reports: Bill Walsh battling leukemia

SAN FRANCISCO – Hall of Fame football coach Bill Walsh, who built an NFL dynasty with the San Francisco 49ers and revolutionized the sport with his West Coast offense, disclosed Friday that he has leukemia.

“I’m positive, but not evangelistic,” the 74-year-old Walsh told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and The Sports Xchange Web sites. “I’m pragmatically doing everything my physicians recommend, and I’m working my way through it.”

Walsh said the cancer first was diagnosed in 2004, but he feels better since a series of blood transfusions in the past month.

“The worst phase was three or four weeks ago. I’ve come back dramatically since, and I’m better,” he said.

He said he was going public now, because word had begun to circulate. A call to Walsh’s home wasn’t immediately returned to The Associated Press. Walsh went 102-63-1 with the 49ers, winning 10 of his 14 postseason games along with six division titles. He was named the NFL’s coach of the year in 1981 and 1984.

WR Brown signs 5-year contract extension

PHILADELPHIA – Reggie Brown’s knack for making big plays earned him a bigger contract faster than expected.

Brown signed a five-year extension Friday that would keep the second-year wide receiver with the Philadelphia Eagles through 2014. The deal, agreed upon late Thursday night, reportedly is worth up to $27 million and includes $10 million in guaranteed money.

“Money has nothing to do with what I do on the field,” said Brown, who is known for his strong work ethic. “I still have to go out there and play and prove myself.”

A second-round pick last season, Brown is the third member of that draft class to get a long-term extension from the Eagles in the past eight days.

Defensive tackle Mike Patterson (first round) and defensive end Trent Cole (fifth round) also signed new deals. Patterson got a five-year extension worth up to $31.3 million, including $9 million in guaranteed money. Cole got a five-year extension worth $25.8 million, including $12 million in guaranteed money.

Like his teammates, Brown knew he could be giving up more money in the future by signing now.

“The gamble is to go for what you think is right,” he said. “I weighed all those options and made my decision. It’s a good feeling to be able to help everybody that helped me.

“I love this city and I love this team. I have no problem playing here for however long it’ll be. This organization is committed to winning.”

Brown showed promise when he became a starter after Terrell Owens was banished from the team midway through last season. With Donte’ Stallworth sidelined most of the first half of season, Brown emerged as Donovan McNabb’s primary target.

He has 26 catches for 502 yards and six touchdowns, including one rushing score. Brown’s average of 19.3 yards per catch is best among receivers with at least 25 receptions, and he has two 100-yard games. Last year, Brown led all rookies with 571 yards receiving on 43 catches.

“He’s done a nice job,” coach Andy Reid said. “He’s worked very hard, one of the hardest workers we have on the football team. He’s got good quickness and strength. He’s a good player right now and he has a chance to even be better.”

Brown’s signing continues a trend for the Eagles. Earlier this year, guard Shawn Andrews signed a contract extension through 2015. In July, center Jamaal Jackson signed an extension through 2013. Free safety Brian Dawkins and punter Dirk Johnson also signed extensions this year.

The deadline for allotting signing bonuses to this year’s salary cap was Monday, but the Eagles and Brown’s agent, Bill Johnson, couldn’t strike a deal in time. Still, management wanted to make sure Brown didn’t get a chance to test free agency after his original contract expired.

“We want to keep him around here,” Reid said. “He’s going to do nothing but get better as time goes on.”

The Eagles hadn’t had much success drafting receivers in the early rounds since Reid arrived in 1999. Freddie Mitchell, a first-round pick in 2001, is the most notable bust. Billy McMullen, a third-round pick in 2003, and fourth-round picks Na Brown (1999) and Gari Scott (2000) never panned out.

Only Todd Pinkston, a second-round pick in 2000, became a full-time player for the Eagles. Pinkston started 61 games from 2001-04, but never had more than 60 catches, 798 yards or seven TDs in a season.

AP-ES-11-10-06 1525EST



Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.