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Finnegan: "I have to earn it"

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CHARLOTTE – Cornerback Cortland Finnegan "retired" after his ninth NFL season in 2014, but he never completely closed the door on a return.

The Panthers opened that door in Week 13, signing Finnegan after long snapper Danny Aiken's release made a roster spot available.

"Any guy who ever plays the game, they just want one more snap, let's just be honest," Finnegan said. "I got giddy just putting on the helmet today."

Finnegan sure looked giddy when he met the media on Monday. The newest Panther expressed his thankfulness and gratefulness frequently.

"It's a great opportunity," Finnegan said, "and I'm here to make the most of it."

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said Finnegan's arrival provides more options at the nickel and more depth overall with starting cornerback Charles Tillman nursing a knee injury.

"We'll start (Cortland) off inside and see how it goes," McDermott said. "It's a day by day thing at this point. Just want to make sure he is up to speed on what we're doing and take it one step at a time.

"It's nice to have options, too. When you look at Cortland and Colin (Jones) and throw Bene (Benwikere) in there and what we do at times with Shaq (Thompson), it's a good little deal we've got going."

Finnegan, a one-time Pro Bowler with 18 career interceptions, has experience inside and outside but said he relishes the challenge of the slot.

"I love playing inside," Finnegan said. "I love the fact that you are a mini linebacker. Sometimes, you get a slot receiver who can wiggle. Hopefully, I can make an impact there."

It'll take a lot of work to get up to speed and make an impact for the NFL's lone undefeated team so late in the season. But said Finnegan he's committed to doing what's necessary to "earn his stripes."

"These guys have been putting in time. I have to earn it," Finnegan said. "I just want to come in and help because these guys are already great."

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