CHARLOTTE – When rookie Armanti Edwards exited the practice field Thursday afternoon and began walking back toward Bank of America Stadium, he didn't get very far.
A fan, with a No. 10 Panthers jersey in hand, had patiently waited in the cold to get Edwards' autograph.
Legions of fans haven't shown such patience, but Edwards has done his best to maintain his.
"I thank them for the support, but in the end, it's up to the coaches," Edwards said. "I just come out and practice, just try to work hard every day and get better."
When the Panthers host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, it will mark the one-year anniversary of Edwards' final game at Appalachian State, a loss that ended a decorated career in which he won two national championships and became the first player in Division I history to throw for more than 10,000 yards and rush for more than 4,000 yards.
The Panthers selected Edwards in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft, as a wide receiver. But as Carolina has struggled offensively, Edwards supporters continue calling for an expanded version of the "Mountaineer," -- the Panthers' version of the "Wildcat" package -- that the team used for two plays two months ago.
"Every now and then we'll rep it, see how it looks," Edwards said. "But I'm full-time at receiver."
Edwards understands that his future with the Panthers – aside from perhaps a gimmick play here and there -- lies at receiver. So even if some of his fans don't understand, those around him understand why he's not yet in the mix on game day.
Edwards was active for last Sunday's game at Seattle but did not play. His only action so far came against the Bears in Week 5, when he got two snaps in the "Mountaineer" and several plays at receiver in the absence of Steve Smith (ankle injury) and Dwayne Jarrett (released five days before the game).
"What I tell him is, 'You're going to get an opportunity. I just can't tell you when,' " Panthers head coach John Fox said. "He hasn't really had many opportunities in a game, but Armanti Edwards has improved, in practice albeit."
To say that Edwards' transition is a daunting one would be an understatement. Fellow rookie wide receiver David Gettis, who has started eight games and leads the team with three touchdown receptions, recently said he's still learning the nuances of the offense.
And Gettis played receiver throughout high school and college.
"It's a tough transition for a receiver from the college ranks to the NFL, so for Armanti, it's probably double that," Gettis said. "He's a quarterback playing receiver, but he's transitioned to the point now that we all see him as a receiver.
"He's gifted. He's fully capable of going out there and making plays for us. He's definitely improved."
Edwards said he's experienced a significant jump in his comfort level just over the last few weeks.
"If I look back at tape from training camp, I see a big difference," he said. "I'm very comfortable at receiver and punt returner now. I had to get used to a new position, to completely change my position, and that takes time."
Fans don't tend to like for things to take time, and Edwards – always at the center of the action throughout his football career – isn't much of a fan of the waiting game, either.
He remains confident, however, that his time will come.
"Of course I'm frustrated because for one thing we've only won one game," Edwards said. "But everybody is very supportive. Everybody sees how much I've improved at receiver and punt returner.
"If not this year, then hopefully it will definitely be next year that I'll be on the field."