Ryne Robinson finds himself in a battle to make the 53-man roster. AP PHOTO
CHARLOTTE -- Ryne Robinson entered the off-season as the odds-on favorite to become the Carolina Panthers return man and No. 4 receiver this season. But the way it looks now Robinson might be on the outside looking in when it comes to claiming a spot on the 53-man roster come Sept. 5.
A simple look at the depth chart offers a glimpse of Robinson's murky situation. He’s not the starting punt returner, Captain Munnerlyn is. He’s not the starting kickoff returner, Mike Goodson is. And he’s not the No. 4 receiver, Kenny Moore is.
It can be a little discouraging.
And yet Robinson refuses to lose faith with two preseason games remaining.
“I’m not reading too much into it,” Robinson said. “I’m going to keep playing hard and keep doing what I do -- catching the ball, trying to catch it clean and getting upfield. I’m not worrying about everybody else, what they’re doing. It’s about me right now. It’s the preseason, let the coaches do what they need to do, and when I get my opportunity, step up to it.”
Robinson had a nice third-down reception Saturday night against the Miami Dolphins, but didn’t help his chances when he botched a punt return late in the game that led to Miami's game-sealing touchdown. Clearly, it was not the type of mistake Robinson could afford – certainly not while in a battle for his job.
Coach John Fox described Robinson's preseason as “some good, some bad.
“Each game you get a new opportunity. I thought offensively he did O.K. last week. Obviously in the kicking game one error was costly. Again, they play the game and you make mistakes. We'll take another look at him this week.”
Robinson was the Panthers fourth receiver and returner in 2007 and looked ready to emerge last season before injuring his knee following a mid-air collision with safety Nate Salley at training camp.
The knee, at times, still bothers him.
“There’s definitely still something there, some soreness, and there’s going to be,” Robinson said. “Just the whole year of not working with it and rehab is tough. I don’t favor it. I move forward, expecting I can fully function on it and get everything done I need to.”
And yet there’s no doubt the injury has ruined the momentum he’d built late in his rookie season when he began to emerge as a promising returner.
“I think everybody’s out here to prove themselves, and I’m still one of those guys,” Robinson said. “I have to come out on a daily basis and show them I can still function and still play at full speed.”
At this point, Moore has shown more big-play ability at receiver than Robinson, who still needs work getting off the jam at the line of scrimmage and fine-tuning his route running.
But the big question for him is can Robinson show enough in the next two preseason games to convince the coaching staff to keep him?
“We’re still in the mix,” Robinson said optimistically. “We’re moving forward and hopefully get some more shots this week to show everybody what I’ve got… I just want to go out there and do what I do every game -- show them that I can play this game, and make some big plays.”