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Rookie OT Brown picks his spot

Posted Jul 1, 2009

Brown
Rookie offensive Patrick Brown. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)

CHARLOTTE -- The rookie with "Brown" on the back of his jersey went about his work on the Panthers' line during organized team activities, looking to solidify a spot on the second team at the position where he felt most comfortable.

But unlike defensive end Everette Brown, the Panthers' highest draft pick this year, offensive tackle Patrick Brown didn't arrive with much fanfare. Sure, he was pursued on draft weekend -- by "15 to 20 teams," per his estimation. But all of that came after his name passed through the seven rounds without being called, much to his surprise.

"I was (expecting to be picked)," he said.

That was a reasonable expectation. Brown was a first-team All-Conference USA choice in 2007 and finished his four years at Central Florida with the nation's longest ongoing streak of consecutive starts at left tackle (50).

But being undrafted has its advantages. One is being able to pick the spot that provides the best chance of making it to the fall. Instead of going where he was beckoned, Brown was able to weigh the options and consult with others.

"I had a recommendation from a friend, Tom Thayer, who played with the Bears and knows the NFL pretty well," Brown said. "My agent also thought this would be a good opportunity to make the team and get some playing time in the preseason."

Right away, Brown found himself working at left tackle on the second team at minicamp and summer school. But he knows that such assignments at this point in the year are fluid.

“It’s a great opportunity, and a great honor. Obviously the coaches trust me," Brown said. "I’ve just got to keep fighting for that spot, because nothing’s guaranteed right now."

None of the potential reserve offensive linemen on the Panthers' roster saw a regular-season snap last year for the team, so in one respect, the team is reconstructing its backup unit from scratch. That gives Brown an opening; however, the same opening exists for the others in the mix at tackle. That group includes fellow undrafted rookies Gerald Cadogan and Garry Williams and 2008 practice-squad member Geoff Schwartz, who lined up primarily as the No. 2 right tackle during summer school.

"There’s no established backup right now," said starting left tackle Jordan Gross. "Just as unique as it was for to have all five of our starters back, it’s (unique) that our depth is so limited."

When the scramble for reserve spots intensifies at training camp, any edge could prove crucial. Brown's rests not only in his four years as a starter at UCF, but in an early connection with Gross.

"We have the same agent (Ethan Lock) and he told me to take care of him because he’s a guy with kind of a similar story to my own," Gross said. "I think he's definitely got potential. His head’s still spinning a little bit – as it is for all the rookies – but I’ve definitely been impressed with what I’ve seen so far."

Yet Brown knows he has far more to learn if he is to stick with the team, so he's quick to ask Gross what he should do.

"He’ll just watch me and ask what I did, why I set that way," Gross said. "If he has trouble on a play, he’ll ask me about it. I try to be real open with all the rookies because when I came in (in 2003), we had such a veteran offensive line, and they all helped me out a ton. I just try to pay it forward."

And, Brown hopes, into a forward march onto the Panthers' regular-season roster.

“It’s getting better day by day," Brown said. "It’s a whole other level when you get here, but I feel like I’m improving every day.”