CHARLOTTE – The Carolina Panthers were on the practice field Wednesday when they received news that quarterback John Beck would be starting Sunday for the Washington Redskins.
Beck replaces Rex Grossman, who threw four interceptions in a 20-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles this past Sunday. He's started four games during his career, all of those coming in 2007 with the Miami Dolphins.
“He’s a little more mobile than Grossman, but they are similar quarterbacks in that they stay within the system,” Panthers linebacker James Anderson said. “The quarterbacks do what they ask them to do.”
Coach Ron Rivera said he doesn’t expect the Panthers will change their preparation for Beck.
“Truthfully, you don’t game plan for an individual unless he’s special,” Rivera said. “He’s a young quarterback that is getting his opportunity. To me you game plan for what they do. (Redskins offensive coordinator) Kyle Shanahan is going to do what he does on the offensive side. It doesn’t matter which quarterback is playing.”
Still, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said he’s glad the Redskins made the move now so he can prepare for Beck and some watch film of him. Beck played in a reserve role Sunday against the Eagles and ran for a touchdown.
“I’m just glad it’s Wednesday so I have time to prepare myself and look at the film on him,” Munnerlyn said.
Beck said he’s excited about the start.
“There’s been a lot of hard work that’s gone into this and you never know when your opportunity is going to come so you always have to stay ready,” Beck said. “I’ve tried to do that and I just want to go out there and do my best.”
HOGAN RETURNS: Help could be on the way for Carolina’s secondary.
Rookie cornerback Brandon Hogan practiced for the first time ever with the Panthers Wednesday, although he remains on the PUP list for now. The Panthers have three weeks to decide whether to activate Hogan to the 53-man roster or put him on injured reserve.
Hogan, who has been rehabbing from a torn ACL he suffered last December at West Virginia, said his surgically repaired knee feels good.
“I feel like I’ve been ready,” Hogan said. “I’ve just been listening to the doctors and what they’ve been telling me to do. I think (the coaches) were anxious to get me out there and I was anxious to get out there.”
Rivera didn’t give any indication as to if or when the Panther might activate him.
“It was exciting to watch him,” Rivera said. “Probably the first thing he has to get back to is his confidence in his abilities. He showed us flashes of why we decided to pick him. You could see his explosiveness coming out of his breaks, but there were a couple of times he rounded (the routes) and took his eyes of the receiver. He has a ways to go in terms of working back on his techniques.”
LINEUP CHANGE: The Panthers continue to play musical chairs with their weak side linebacker position.
Rivera announced Wednesday that Jason Phillips will replace Jason Williams this week.
Phillips played in nine games last season with the Baltimore Ravens, but this will be his first NFL start. He isn’t the fastest linebacker the Panthers have but Rivera likes the football savvy he brings to the table.
“His father was a football coach, which always bode well,” Rivera said. “He’s been around the game and he gets it. He’s a smart, instinctive player with a good natural feel for things. The only thing you question is his top-end speed. But having said that, he’s smart enough to understand angles and how to approach ball carriers.”
Rivera also said the Panthers might consider changing up their defensive line rotation.
OLSEN SITS OUT: Tight end Greg Olsen sat out Wednesday’s practice with a turf toe issue, although it’s not believed to be serious. In fact, Rivera said he expects Olsen to be back to practice on Thursday.
“It’s kind of a turf toe deal and we wanted to let it calm down a little bit,” Rivera said.
Meanwhile, linebackers Omar Gaither (knee) and Thomas Williams (head) and safety Jordan Pugh (head) sat out practice. Of those, Rivera thinks Williams has the best chance of playing Sunday.
Safety Sherrod Martin said he’s feeling better after having to leave Sunday’s game with an illness.
CAM SET TO RUN: Cam Newton doesn’t share Rivera’s concern over taking too many big hits running the football. One week after Rivera announced he might be cutting the rookie’s carries, Newton said running the football is not a concern of his.
“I don't take hits. That concern wasn't brought to my attention,” Newton said. “When people see me play of course they see I have the ability to run. I don't think I take those crushing hits that people think I take.
“I think I get down as much as I can before I take the hit. Or if I do take a hit, I think of it as if I was in the pocket, it's nothing different. If you're in that pocket and you know you're about to take a hit, but if you can get a completion, that can be well worth it.”
BACK IN THE LEAGUE: Newton jokingly said he was a little upset with his older brother Cecil, who failed to call him or text him to let him know he signed with the Green Bay Packers.
Cam said he heard the news from his teammates.
“I was teasing him, I didn't even know he was in the league,” Newton said. “That's just how we are. We tease with each other. I wish him the best. That goes without even saying.”
Cecil spent time on Jacksonville’s roster last year. He was cut by New Orleans in training camp.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS: Although he’s averaging less than 21 yards per kickoff return, Kealoha Pilares will continue to be the team’s kickoff returner and Armanti Edwards will remain the punt returner.
“He did some good things,” Rivera said. “He’s probably (close) to getting a big return. He’s showing some explosiveness.”
The Panthers have struggled all year long in the return game, but Rivera isn’t about to pin that all on the returners.
“We have to put the right kind of guys in front of them,” Rivera said of the players blocking for the returners. “The guys that are in front of them have to give them the opportunity.”