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Adams already up to speed


CHARLOTTE - As players left the field at the end of opening day at the Panthers' recent rookie camp, interview requests from the media weren't the only thing slowing them down.

Several of the Panthers' draft picks made reference to the process of adjusting to the speed of the game on the NFL level.

Wide receiver Joe Adams, however, was quick to offer a different take.

"It's not overwhelming at all. I played in the SEC, where guys are pretty much this fast," Adams said. "Now, they're probably not this big."

At 5-11, 181 pounds, Adams is accustomed to being outsized. He, in fact, is the lightest player on the Panthers' 90-man roster.

But with a 4.25-second personal best in the 40-yard dash, the challenge for his would-be tacklers is to catch him if they can.

"Once that ball is in his hands, he is a dynamic player," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said following the final practice session of rookie camp. "We saw it a couple of times where he caught a couple of slants and quick ins over the middle, and there were some really good things that caught your attention.

"If we can get the ball in his hands on the offensive side of the ball with his ability to make people miss, you've got some plays that can be made."

Adams has the potential to be a unique weapon, but Rivera would like to see the Arkansas product hone his receiving skills leading up to his rookie season.

Adams' receiving numbers in college weren't bad at all – he ranks second in school history in receptions (164), yards (2,410) and touchdowns (17) – but he made a name for himself catching punts rather than passes.

"A lot of people come up and ask me if I'm the guy that returned those punts," Adams said. "And every time someone realizes who I am, they always bring up Tennessee."

When Adams and his fans mention Tennessee, they're referencing arguably the most eye-popping play of last college football season, a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown in which he somehow escaped six tackles despite also being pinned in by the sideline.

It was the defining moment in a senior season in which Adams ranked second in the nation with a 16.9-yard punt return average while finding the end zone four times.

"That probably was the craziest punt return I've ever had," Adams said. "I remember breaking all those tackles and all the fans screaming. Afterwards, I went home and watched it on highlights. It was on ESPN for a couple of weeks. I was pretty amazed at the things that I did."


Adams doesn't lack in confidence – a trait shared by many a great receiver – and he believes that his contributions won't be limited to punt returns even at the beginning of pro career.

Still, he is quite familiar and respectful of the path taken by Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, a Pro Bowler as a rookie in 2001 despite catching just 10 passes. Smith, now the team's all-time leading receiver, went to the NFL's all-star game on the strength of three kick returns for touchdowns.

"I actually watched a lot of tape of him when I was in college to see what I could learn about attacking DBs in different ways," Adams said. "I want to learn what I can from him. This is a great situation."

The Panthers selected Smith in the third round of the 2001 NFL Draft, the 11th wide receiver chosen in a draft that also included Chad Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Santana Moss.

Last month, the Panthers picked Adams in the fourth round, making him the 13th receiver selected.

"I was kind of surprised, but that's just how it worked out," Adams said. "I'm not mad about it. I'm just going to go out and play my best and show the world what I've got.

"I've got a chip on my shoulder, but that's just how life is. Things don't always go your way, so you've just got to keep on pushing."

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