<
>

Center practices but won't comment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers center Jeff Mitchell, one of three players identified as having obtained steroid prescriptions, declined to comment Friday on his role in the investigation of the doctor accused of writing the illegal prescriptions.

Mitchell, punter Todd Sauerbrun and offensive lineman Todd Steussie, who is now with Tampa Bay, were all named in a CBS report
as having obtained the illegal prescriptions from South Carolina
alternative medicine doctor James Shortt.

Mitchell was on the field Friday for the first session of Carolina's three-day mini-camp and stopped to talk to reporters
after practice. But when the subject of the steroids came up, he
declined to comment.

"I can't really go into anything about that," he said. "That area is off limits."

The Panthers told Sauerbrun not to come to mini-camp, and have acknowledged they are actively trying to trade him. But coach John Fox said there was no discussion of having Mitchell sit out the session.

"In this society you are innocent until proven guilty," Fox said.

Several Panthers players testified this week before a federal grand jury about Shortt, The State newspaper of Columbia, S.C., reported.

Sauerbrun and Steussie were not called to testify. A lawyer for
Steussie said he is cooperating with investigators and The State
reported that Sauerbrun was as well.

It is not clear if Mitchell is, and the Panthers have maintained
they have little knowledge of the situation.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said this week that the NFL security
department also is investigating.

The State reported that the grand jury is hearing testimony on
whether Shortt illegally prescribed steroids and other
performance-enhancing drugs to current and former Panthers, as well
as to bodybuilders.

Shortt's medical license was suspended April 14 after the South
Carolina Board of Medical Examiners found he prescribed the steroid
testosterone to four unidentified patients in doses that were
"extremely unlikely to have been prescribed with any legitimate
medical justification."