Frequent flyers land in Carolina

CHARLOTTE – Hulking offensive linemen like recent Panthers addition Tim Duckworth aren't always the fleetest of foot, but they certainly know how to move.

The Panthers are Duckworth's fourth NFL stop since he was a rookie in 2007.

For a multitude of NFL players like Duckworth, a roster spot is rarely a sure thing. So when the Panthers contacted Duckworth at the end of August, between jobs, he couldn't have been happier.

"I was actually flying to Florida to sign with the Florida Tuskers of the UFL (United Football League)," Duckworth said. "As soon as I landed, I got a phone call from my agent saying, 'Hey, Carolina wants you. You've got to get back on the next flight.'

"That was a long day for me, but it was a blessing."

It's much the same story for the pair of offensive linemen that the Panthers signed to their practice squad. Carolina is the fourth team since 2008 for Shawn Murphy and the third team since 2007 for Dan Santucci.

"That's something everybody accepts as being part of the business," said Murphy, the son of former Atlanta Braves standout Dale Murphy. "It's not fun, but there are perks and benefits to the job. There's also the negative side, which is you could be anywhere at any time.

"It's tough, but it's worth it. I'm really glad for the opportunity to be here. It's been a real positive experience so far."

Santucci spent his first three seasons the Cincinnati Bengals, who visit Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, but Santucci recently was with three teams in a month -- the Bengals before training camp, the Kansas City Chiefs during camp and now the Panthers after camp.

He tried to make himself at home in Carolina by living with long snapper J.J. Jansen, his former teammate at Notre Dame, but he didn't truly feel at home again until his family arrived in the Charlotte area Tuesday.

"It's tough," Santucci said. "When Kansas City called, I was sitting down to eat lunch, and they said I had a three o'clock flight. It was like noon on a Friday, so I went home and packed my bags and left, and then I didn't see my wife and son for four weeks.

"Then I went home for a day after I got released, and then I got the call to come here. You're always excited about the call, but the family part is tough."

Often, though, the sacrifices end up paying dividends.

That certainly seems to be the case for Duckworth, who had spent his entire career on practice squads, predominantly with the New Orleans Saints. Then, despite joining the Panthers just five days before final roster cuts, he earned his way onto the 53-man roster and played in the team's first two games.

"The reason I've been able to do it is because you've got all these older vets showing me what to do and how to do it right," Duckworth said. "Most people get their shots with time to prepare, but you've got to take advantage however you can.

"My process right now is breaking down to build back up, which is going a whole lot better than I thought it would."

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