Comments from Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox following the team's morning training camp practice.
On the defense's performance: It's much like the season. One time we look pretty good, whether it's a phase of the game or as a team. It's up and down, but they've shown good improvement. They're hustling and they're working very hard.
On second-year tight end Gary Barnidge working with the first team: He's a guy that's had a good camp. We like to keep competition going. There have been no final decisions to this point, but we try to reward guys who are doing well. It's not where you start the race, it's where you finish. He's had a good camp, he had a good offseason, and we're giving him a chance in there with the ones some.
On what he likes about Barnidge: He's got good receiving skills. He's got a pretty good feel in the passing game. He's becoming a better blocker.
On why players make such big improvements from their first to second seasons: It's growth, experience, understanding the pro game better. It is a different game. Like everything, the more you do it the better you get you'd like to think. We've had a lot of guys do that, in particularly young guys they should improve - and they usually do.
On if it was unusual for so many rookies to play big roles last season: No. This league is about developing young players; it's a young man's game. It's a hard game, and those young bodies hold up a little bit better. I think it's normal.
On what makes cornerback Chris Gamble special: He's a very good athlete. Some of these guys have a knack for the ball. The old adage is most guys end up at db (defensive back) because they started off as wide outs and they can't catch. Chris isn't necessarily that. He played some wide out in college, he was a return man in college and he was obviously a very good corner in college. He played at a high level at Ohio State, and they utilized him in a lot of ways because he is an outstanding athlete. First and foremost, I think he's got very, very good athletic skills and ball skills.
On his philosophy about having one cornerback cover the other team's best wide receiver all over the field: I've done just about everything. In New York we did that some. Part of coaching is putting your players in position. Depending on who you've got and who they've got, sometimes that's the best way to go. It's a little bit different, so there is some teaching involved. You have to practice that way. It's not something you can just say, "Alright, let's just do it." A guy lines up on the left or right the whole year, and then all of a sudden he's tracking a guy. It's different. It's a game adjustment or particular team adjustment normally. But a lot of times you have disparaging abilities at corner, and so you might have to do that.
On if Gamble could cover another team's best wide receiver all over the field: I think he's good enough to do it, there's no question. But a lot of it depends on who you've got on the other side and what kinds of matchups the other team presents. It's too early to say exactly what you do on a particular week, but that's always an option.
On wide receiver Marcus Monk being a big target: Marcus has worked hard. He had a good offseason with us. He is a big target; he is 6-(foot)-5. Until we get into games, I've not watched a lot of these guys play in games, so I'm looking forward to it. That's why we're out here practicing, trying to get them as ready as we can for games. Time will tell.
On new quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer: Rip is a real experienced coach. Mike McCoy did an outstanding job, built a good relationship. I think Jake (Delhomme) has had some successes. Like anybody, whether it's players, coaches or anything, change is part of the deal. Rip has been a head coach; he's coached in the National Football League; he's an excellent technician. Sometimes change is good - a different face, different voice, different style. So far it's been a good relationship.
On what he expects at Fan Fest: A lot of these guys have never practiced in that stadium or been in that stadium. I think it's exciting for them. It's a new venue. I think it's real exciting for our fans. I think the real hard core fans are there, and they've got the good seats. Really, just kind of a little taste of live football. Typically, we're never live on the quarterbacks, but the other positions their first little taste of tackle to the ground football.
On the practice format at Fan Fest: We've got to get them warmed up, we stretch, just like normal. We have special teams in there, seven-on-seven and then typically we've gone about 36 plays of scrimmage football.