|Panthers opening day starting QB not on the roster yet? It's possible|
|Written by Steve Reed|
|Thursday, 16 June 2011 14:50|
CHARLOTTE – When the Carolina Panthers return to the football field following the NFL lockout there will be no shortage of storylines, none more intriguing than the quarterback situation.|
Obviously the Panthers drafted Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton No. 1 overall with an eye toward him being the future of the franchise, but what happens in the interim as Newton is learning a complex NFL offensive system and getting prepared to play at this level?
That’s where the intrigue comes.
Although the Panthers had five quarterbacks participate at their player workouts two weeks ago – Newton, Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen, Tony Pike and Keith Null – there’s a chance none of them will start the regular season opener Sept. 11 against at Arizona. In fact, to borrow a baseball term, the "opener day starter" might not even be on the roster yet.
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney has hinted he might bring in a veteran quarterback to serve as a mentor for Newton and Clausen, and a guy who can bridge the gap until they feel comfortable that Newton is ready to play.
There are some decent options out there, including former St. Louis and Baltimore quarterback Marc Bulger, who reportedly might be interested in going to a team with the understanding he might be a backup. There’s also a push from some Carolina players, including center Ryan Kalil, to bring back long-time starter Jake Delhomme, who’s likely to be released by the Cleveland Browns once the lockout ends.
Or the team may just decide Moore is veteran enough.
The theory of bringing in a veteran quarterback to start early on makes some sense.
Because the Panthers have already cancelled two minicamps and will have missed all four weeks of OTAs before the lockout ends, young quarterbacks like Newton, Clausen and Pike are squarely behind the eight-ball.
Newton might have had a chance to start against the Cardinals, but through no fault of his own he falls further behind the learning curve with each passing day he's not on the field practicing and spending time with his coaches in the film room. Even if the lockout ends in the next couple of weeks and training camp starts on time as some suspect it might, Newton will only have about six weeks in all before the regular season opener.
That’s not a lot of time to learn a new offense.
The same goes for Moore, who has 13 career starts, and Clausen, who has 10.
A veteran quarterback who has been through the wars like a Bulger or Delhomme would presumably be able to pick up the new offensive scheme quicker and start the first five or six games, or even more, before giving way to Newton.
“Our quarterback position is what it is right now,” coach Ron Rivera told reporters during a recent visit to Fayetteville. “We’ve got to talk about where we want to head as far as the veteran backup is concerned.”
Rivera has made it clear Moore isn't out of the mix as that potential veteran quarterback.
Then again, Moore might not even be on the roster come September.
As it stands now, Moore's contract is up and he's listed a restricted free agent. However, a new collective bargaining agreement could change his status. Clausen will have a lot of work to do to win over the coaching staff after going 1-9 as a starter last season as a rookie.
As for Newton, he's just biding his time.
He refuses to put a timetable on when he expects to start, saying he doesn't need to add any unneeded pressure on himself.
“My timeline to want to go on the field, I can’t really say that,” Newton said. “I just want to get better and maximize my opportunity to get better.”
Newton has been studying the "focus points" of the playbook he received from coaches when the courts briefly lifted the lockout back April, just days after he was drafted. And while he said he has a good grip on the offense after working with his teammates for two weeks at Charlotte Christian High School, Newton hasn’t begun studying opposing NFL defenses, a key component in a quarterback’s preparation for real games.
That will begin once the lockout ends.
“One thing we’re not worried about is other teams,” Newton said. “I say that with the utmost respect. We’re trying to get our team in the best situation we can put ourselves in and that’s learning our situation first.”
But for now all Newton can do is keep working on his own and wait out the lockout like everyone else.
"I plan to keep working. There's no day I can just sit down," Newton said. "There's a lot of uncertainty. So I'm just going to wait until something happens because it could be today, it could be tomorrow, it could be next week and I have to be ready no matter what."