|New starting FB Fiammetta 'a mile ahead' of where he was last year at this time|
|Written by Steve Reed|
|Thursday, 03 June 2010 10:29|
CHARLOTTE – It’s never easy filling the shoes of a fan favorite who has left town. Comparisons to the guy before you are inevitable and some folks already have a preconceived notion that you’ll never be quite as good, no matter how well you play.
Tony Fiammetta realizes that.
And yet, for his career to blossom he’ll have to do exactly that this year at fullback, where he’s expected to step in and replace 10-year veteran Brad Hoover, who was released earlier this off-season when the Carolina Panthers purged their roster of 30-something-year-old players.
“I always like to put pressure on myself,” said the 6-foot, 242-pound Fiammetta. “I consider myself a perfectionist. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get better every day. With Brad leaving that leaves some big shoes to fill but I think I’m going to be able to do that.”
Fiammetta played in 10 games last year as a rookie, starting two.
He didn’t put up any stats, but showed enough in practice and in his limited playing time to convince the Panthers to release Hoover, who wasn’t exactly set to break the bank this season with a base salary of less than $1 million.
“The fullback position is a pretty heads up position as far as how it fits in the running game, cleaning up for the o-line and making adjustments on the move,” coach John Fox said. “Tony showed that ability as the season wore on last year a lot in practice to pick that stuff up and understand what we're doing in the run game. I think he's ready to take that next step.”
Said Fiammetta: “I’m a mile ahead of where I was last year at this time. Just the mental part of the game, everything is slowing down and I’m more comfortable with the playbook so now I can think a little outside the box.”
What surprised Fiammetta the most is how much thinking is involved at the pro level.
“It’s really more of a mental game than a physical game,” he said. “Everybody is on the same playing field and what makes the difference is the mental side of the game.”
Fiammetta could have a different role than Hoover, who was essentially a battering ram – although a very effective one -- for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart over the past two seasons. Carolina finished in the top three in rushing in each of the last two seasons with Hoover leading the way.
But with the Panthers expected to open up the offense a little more, Fiammetta could be asked to do different things, including catching more passes coming out of the backfield.
“I think getting into a new offense you’re going to see things that you haven’t seen before and you’re going to have to adapt to what you see on the field,” Fiammetta said. “The more you see things, the better you’re going to get.”
While it will be strange not hearing the chant of “Hoooooov!” at home games this year, Fiammetta, a fourth-round pick in 2009 out of Syracuse, seems determined to leave his own mark on the franchise.
“Obviously it’s what I’ve been waiting for as a professional – the opportunity to get out there and get more reps,” Fiammetta said. “Yeah, I think I can step in and be effective. I’m going to work my way into doing whatever I can. I feel like I’m going to be able to fill that role big time.”