CHARLOTTE - As the Panthers' other active quarterback throughout the season, veteran Derek Anderson always stood one snap away from taking over the reins of the offense.
As things turned out, Anderson only relieved rookie phenom Cam Newton a couple of times in mop-up roles, but Anderson still made crucial contributions that didn't show up in the gamebook.
"I think I did some good things as far as my role, helping this team every week where I could, from trying to get the defense ready to helping Cam out," Anderson said. "I enjoyed the season for the first time in a while. Obviously, winning more games would have made it even more enjoyable, but I really enjoyed it."
The Panthers signed Anderson early in training camp to help with the development of Newton and second-year quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Some wondered if he'd embrace such a role after being a starter for the better part of the previous four seasons.
Carolina, however, had no such doubts, especially given Anderson's prior relationship with offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. The duo had teamed up with the Cleveland Browns in 2007, when Anderson first became a full-time starter and turned in a Pro Bowl performance.
General manager Marty Hurney and head coach Ron Rivera considered that prior knowledge of Chudzinski's offense to be pivotal for a team turning to a rookie quarterback, especially coming off an offseason significantly shortened by the NFL's work stoppage.
On the field, Anderson impressed enough to earn the backup spot. Off the field, he did an impressive job preparing the starter.
"Any little bit I could do every week, just based on things I've seen and experiences I've had, I tried to share it," Anderson said. "Being in this offense before and understanding things, I just tried to give subtle reminders, just little quick things that hit my brain during the course of the game or the course of preparation. It helps to have somebody who has been through it."
Anderson helped Newton work toward developing a more balanced demeanor during games, a crucial component to being a leader.
While Newton quickly gained notice for his downtrodden demeanor when something went wrong during a game, Anderson's reputation was just the opposite. In a 2010 game with the Arizona Cardinals, Anderson suddenly found himself in a strange firestorm when TV cameras spotted him smiling on the sideline during a lopsided loss.
"That's my personality. People take it the wrong way sometimes, but I just try to be balanced between having a good time and enjoying myself but also getting down to work and being serious," Anderson said. "Cam is still trying to learn that balance. It can be frustrating. I've been through that, so I just tried to be positive with him.
"He puts a lot of pressure on himself, but you've got to have fun, too, or you're just going to beat yourself up."
In addition, Anderson helped Newton learn to pace himself between games.
"Early in the year, I told him to get his preparation in but then go home and clear your mind," Anderson said. "You can't sit there and watch tape until right before you go to bed because you won't sleep – you'll lie in bed running through all kinds of situations."
Thanks in part to Anderson, it will be opposing defensive coordinators who will face sleepless nights come next season.
"I really enjoyed watching Cam progress," Anderson said. "I'm excited about where he can go and where we can go."