Panthers RB Williams says he would like to stay in Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- DeAngelo Williams wants to stay in Carolina, where he holds the career and single-season franchise rushing records.

He's just not sure if the rebuilding Panthers will want him back.

Speaking to reporters Monday for the first time since being placed on season-ending injured reserve earlier this month, the impending free-agent indicated he'd like to re-sign with the Panthers regardless of who coaches the team in 2011.

John Fox, in the last year of his contract, is not expected to return.

"I can tell you this, I love being a Carolina Panther," Williams said. "I don't want to go anywhere. It's not my decision, though."

Unlike injured linebacker Thomas Davis, who said he'd been told the team plans to re-sign him, the 27-year-old Williams has received no assurances as his five-year, $9 million rookie contract is about to expire. And the Panthers have a logjam in the backfield.

Jonathan Stewart, who combined with Williams last season to become the first teammates in NFL history to each rush for over 1,100 yards, is signed through the 2012 season.

Mike Goodson is also signed for two more years and has two 100-yard rushing games since Williams was sidelined with a strained ligaments in the arch of his right foot.

Is there room for everybody?

"It was this year. It was last year," Williams said. "I think it's a proven fact that you need more than a couple tailbacks to get through seasons sometimes."

After rushing for 1,515 yards in 2008 and 1,117 last year when he made the Pro Bowl, Williams' numbers declined dramatically this season as the Panthers (1-10) became the NFL's lowest-scoring team.

He managed only 361 yards and was averaging 4.1 yards a carry, a yard worse than his career average coming into the season, when he was hurt late in a victory over San Francisco on Oct. 24.

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When the Panthers suffered numerous other injuries and needed to sign an offensive lineman, the Panthers placed Williams on injured reserve Nov. 17, even though he'd be close to returning now. Williams said he recently began running again.

"Yes, I did try to talk them out of it," Williams said of going on IR. "But once you have bodies go down like we did, what can you tell them?"

While the Panthers front office isn't discussing the future, Williams faces uncertainty with the offseason free-agent rules unknown until the next collective bargaining agreement is signed.

The 2006 first-round pick hopes he'll get to continue to play for running backs coach Jim Skipper, although it's possible no coaches on Fox's staff will return.

"That's the only running backs coach I've ever played for. He understands me and I understand him," Williams said. "They got all the pieces there. It's whether or not they want to bring me back."

Williams insists that's his first option, saying his affinity with owner Jerry Richardson outweighs uncertainty over the next coaching staff.

"It's the organization that ultimately makes the team," Williams said. "Mr. Richardson will be back, right?"

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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