Adams hopes to add punch to Panthers return game

Associated Press Modified: May 12, 2012 at 7:15 pm •  Published: May 12, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers have gone nearly a decade since they returned a punt for a touchdown in a regular season game.

Enter rookie Joe Adams, who hopes to remedy that.

Adams was one of the premier punt returners in college football last season at Arkansas, returning four for touchdowns including one gem against Tennessee which has generated more than 224,600 hits on You Tube.

"I'm the type of guy who can make things happen," Adams said.

And he's not only talking about returning punts.

Adams, who has been putting his talents this weekend at Panthers rookie minicamp, said he'd love to follow the career path of new teammate Steve Smith, parlaying a successful start as an NFL returner into a productive career as a wide receiver.

Smith, entering his 12th season, was selected to the Pro Bowl his rookie season as a returner before making four more trips as a receiver.

There are some similarities between Adams and Smith.

Adams is 5-foot-11, two inches taller than Smith, but they but both weigh about 181 pounds. Smith was a third-round pick. Adams was taken in the fourth. They're both quick. And, like Smith, Adams doesn't lack for confidence and appears fearless with the ball in his hands.

In fact, Adams gets mad when he doesn't get a chance to return a punt.

"I hate fair catching the ball," Adams said.

In his eyes every time he touches the ball his team has a chance for a big play.

"And one big play can change the whole game," he said.

Smith did that as a rookie.

In fact, the first time Smith touched the ball as a professional in 2001 he took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings in the regular season opener.

Smith added five more returns for touchdowns — three on punts and two on kickoffs — in his first three seasons. His last punt return for a touchdown in a regular season game — and Carolina's last, too — came in 2003. Smith did add another in the NFC championship game against Seattle in the 2005 season.

After his third season, however, Smith only returned punts on special occasions because he'd become too valuable as a wide receiver.