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Carolina Panthers

Gamble has short memory


SPARTANBURG, S.C. - It seemed like a pretty safe assumption that cornerback Chris Gamble would become the Panthers' all-time leader in interceptions by the end of the 2010 season.

Nothing, however, was safe last season - not even Gamble's starting spot.

"That was the second time I've been benched," Gamble said. "But the past is in the past. I'm just focused on this year with the new coaches and the new defense."

Gamble entered last season with 32 consecutive starts - a streak that dated to his one previous benching late in the 2007 season - and with 24 interceptions, second in team history to Eric Davis' 25.

But Gamble didn't pick off any passes in 2010, and after he struggled in the 10th game of the season against the Baltimore Ravens, he found himself in a reserve role for the next game. Gamble then missed the final five games of the season with hamstring and ankle issues, finishing the year without an interception for the first time in his seven-year NFL career and with a career-low 32 tackles.

The last time Gamble was benched, he responded with a career-high 103 tackles in 2008 - the same type of response he plans this season.

"It's a fresh start for me, just like starting over," Gamble said. "I'm confident, ready to go. Thinking about last year and going 2-14, I've got a chip on my shoulder. I just want to show everybody what I can do, make plays and have fun."

Consistent contributions from Gamble are perhaps more crucial than ever this season. Captain Munnerlyn, who replaced Gamble in the starting lineup last season and responded with an interception return for a touchdown, is now listed as the starter opposite Gamble. Richard Marshall, who started every game at corner for the Panthers each of the last two seasons, is now a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

"A cover corner is very important to what we want to do. It's one of the six core players you have to have on defense," said Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who learned much of his defensive philosophy from late Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. "The one thing Jim always wanted was corners that were physical and played with vision. That's what Chris is.

"He's a physical corner who's got good size and he plays with vision. Having him out there on the field, especially when you are bringing pressure, puts him in position to make plays even more so."


Gamble is embracing his role in the new defense under Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, formerly with the Eagles.

"I feel real comfortable with the defense. I think it will let me make plays and just do what I do," he said. "They've talked about me being on the elite receivers, and I'm looking forward to that challenge. I just want to start fresh and show everybody what I can do."

Gamble, who is just returning to practice following an extended bout with a stomach virus, has lost 10 pounds – down to 195 – from last season, and he now feels quicker.

What Gamble hasn't lost is his soft-spoken self-assurance.

"You've got to have that confidence, have that swagger about yourself," he said. "You're going to get beat sometimes, but you've just got to bounce back and make a play on the next play. You have to stay confident, use your technique and do everything right, and you should do fine."

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