SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Veteran quarterback Derek Anderson came to Carolina hoping to battle for a starting job, but three weeks into training camp he seems more resigned to the fact his most important role here might be as a mentor to young quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen and Cam Newton.
And he’s OK with that.
Unlike in past years where he was competing for a starting job, Anderson is taking on a role of helping Clausen and Newton learn an offensive scheme he’s familiar with.
“For me I think the last few years has been a lot of pent-up frustration,” Anderson said. “I came into this situation with a clear head and free mind. I came here to just help them. I think it’s more of a friendship and leadership role where I can help those guys prepare every week. I’m trying to do that anyway I can.”
Last month Arizona Cardinals quarterback John Skelton said in an interview with a Phoenix radio station that Anderson didn’t do much to help the younger quarterbacks develop.
When asked about those comments Monday, Anderson replied, “It was a little different situation. I was the starter last year and was preparing every single week and trying to help those guys when I could.
“But during game preparations I have a certain schedule that I work from and do during the season when I am the starter. Not being the starter, you do things to accommodate those (younger) guys. When I wasn’t playing I tried as hard as I could to help those guys. But in that offense I didn’t understand everything we were doing. This offense, I’ve been in it and I understand it, and it’s easier to help (Clausen and Newton) learn from things I’ve done in the past.”
Anderson did well in his brief appearance Saturday night, throwing a 35-yard touchdown pass to Kealoha Pilares in the fourth quarter.
But in practice Anderson hasn’t been getting very many reps in team drills, with those going almost exclusively to Clausen and Newton.
Anderson said he expected that.
“They made it clear I wasn’t going to get a lot of reps (in practice) and I was going to have to study and make sure I was ready to go when the opportunity came and continue to prepare and make sure my arm is ready and my mind is clear,” Anderson said.
Clausen said Anderson has been a huge help.
“He’s had a great career and went to a Pro Bowl in this offense with the Cleveland Browns playing in this offense,” Clausen said. “He’s definitely helped me from day one. He knows about the game and he knows the ins and outs of this offense.”
Coach Ron Rivera also praised Anderson, saying he's been a terrific mentor.
"While one quarterback is out there he's talking to the other one telling him what the guy is doing or should be doing (during the play) and then when the other guy comes out he'll tell him, 'Hey, you should have done this or done that,'" Rivera said after Monday night's practice. "It's been really good. And I will tell you, he's been terrific and I know our guys appreciate him."
QUARTERBACK BATTLE: After practice Rivera said he'll likely name the regular season starting quarterback next week, prior to the third preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
As for how he sees the quarterback battle shaping up between Clausen and Newton, Anderson said both are gifted but still need to improve.
“On the first day the first thing I did was notice how big Cam is,” Anderson said. “He’s physically gifted and throws the ball well. Obviously he has a long ways to go as far as understanding NFL defenses and working more out of a pro style offense. And Jimmy had his struggles last year like we all have and he’s working hard and he’s picking it up very good. Both they both bring good things to the table.”
INJURY UPDATE: Rivera said RT Jeff Otah is being held out of practice to reduce the swelling in his knee.
"He got a little swelling in it and we thought we ought to back off," Rivera said.
Otah has been out since last week.
"Jeff is doing a nice job and he's sticking the plan as far as rehabbing and getting ready to go," Rivera said. "It's just a matter of time and he's coming along very well and he's been very attentive to what he has to do."
FB Tony Fiammetta (neck stinger), FS Charles Godfrey (excused family issue) and QB Tony Pike (shoulder) were held out of practice. Pike was getting his shoulder check out by doctors.
In other injury news, five starters returned to practice Monday including WR Steve Smith, DE Charles Johnson, LB Thomas Davis and CBs Chris Gamble and Captain Munnerlyn.
"Steve struggled initially and you could see him wincing when the ball hit his hands," Rivera said. "They were giving him some grief about it but then he got used to it and settled in and started making some plays. So it was good to have him back on the field, that's for darn sure."
CLAUSEN STAYS FOCUSED: Clausen certainly heard the crowd chanting for Newton after his slow start Saturday night, but said he was pleased with how he remained focused and continued to play hard.
“Things are going to happen like that – you are going to throw picks and fumble the ball sometimes,” Clausen said. “It’s about how you carry yourself and recover from those things. I thought I did a great job of coming back and going down and scoring a touchdown.”
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYS WELL: One of the areas that went relatively unnoticed in the preseason opener was the improved play of Carolina’s special teams, which dominated the Giants.
“I felt like we played hard and we have a great thing going on in all aspects,” said WR Charly Martin. “Special teams comes down to a lot of one-on-one matchups and you either win or you lose. I think we had a great day and I think we have a long ways to go missing OTAs and minicamps.”
Returner Armanti Edwards admits he even impressed himself with his punt returns of 24 and 22 yards Saturday night.
“I kind of was,” Edwards said with a smile. “After trying to do it for the first time last year (compared) to where I was the first game this year, I was a little impressed.”
Edwards said he’s not out to prove anybody wrong, but said his performance boosted his own confidence.
HOGAN STILL WAITING: CB Brandon Hogan, the team’s fourth-round pick from West Virginia, is still waiting for word on when he’ll be cleared to practice, but sources said he’s still not ready.
Hogan tore the ACL in his left knee back in December.
“I’ve been working with trainers doing a little bit of running, cutting and backpeddling,” Hogan said. “They told me whenever I get my leg stronger. I’m just listening to them and take it slow and follow the orders.”
If Hogan doesn’t get on the field soon, the Panthers almost certainly will put him on injured reserve or the PUP list to start the season. If he goes on the PUP list he’ll automatically a minimum of the miss the first six weeks of the season. If he goes on IR he's done for the year. It will be hard for him to make the team if doesn't play at all in the preseason.
As for his off-the-field issues which include two arrests, Hogan said “all of that stuff is behind me. I’m moving forward.”
PRO SCOUTS ADDED: The Panthers added former Cleveland Browns QB Ken Dorsey and former Washington Redskins TE Don Warren as pro scouts.
Dorsey worked at the IMG Football Academy where Cam Newton spent time this offseason. However, Newton primarily worked one-on-one with former Panthers QB Chris Weinke.
They replace Tag Ribary and Trent Kirchner, who previously left to take jobs with the Seattle Seahawks.