Garrett Gilbert returns to familiarity with Carolina

Gilbert throws at Wednesday's practice

CHARLOTTE -- Three months and 23 days after becoming a cutdown day casualty, quarterback Garrett Gilbert received a re-gift he likely had no problem accepting: a spot on the Panthers roster.

In the wake of the injuries sustained at the position, Gilbert received a call on Christmas Eve from the franchise he was a member of during the 2017 season and 2018 preseason. Gilbert was signed to the roster to back up rookie Kyle Allen, who will start Sunday's season finale at the Saints after Week 16 starter Taylor Heinicke was placed on injured reserve with an elbow injury.

"It's always really exciting to get the chance to play again and also to see all these guys who were my teammates for over a year," Gilbert said. "It's great to be back in the locker room."

Having appeared in all four of Carolina's preseason games - where he completed 19-of-33 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns - Gilbert's familiarity with the offense made him an easy choice to fill a big void.

"We're fortunate to be able to get a guy like Garrett come back," head coach Ron Rivera said. "He's a solid football player. Smart guy. Was in our system for almost two full seasons. It's good to have him back and have him part of what we're trying to do."

Prior to his 2018 offseason stint, Gilbert spent a full season behind Cam Newton and backup Derek Anderson - six games on the practice squad, then 10 games on the 53-man roster (though inactive for all 10). Being able to lean on the experience he gained from his first run has given Gilbert a sense of familiarity entering Carolina's season finale.

"There's certainly a level of comfort. Obviously, having been away for four months, there's some new wrinkles, but there's definitely a level of comfort with the verbiage and with the language and certainly being around the guys. I think that helps, too," Gilbert shared. "Having a good level of communication with those guys is definitely a little bit of a leg up to start with."

When Gilbert was a part of the team during training camp, he was wedged in a deep battle with Heinicke for the backup job. It was the fourth time since being drafted by the Rams in 2014 that Gilbert had to fight to stay in the league.

In the four months he spent away from the NFL, Gilbert worked to find a balance between living as an athlete and doing everyday things. It was a trying time, but the journeyman is ready to get going once again.

"There are days when it doesn't seem easy, but I'd like to think it's like being a backup quarterback. You got to stay ready," Gilbert said. "You have to go into Sunday expecting to play and then also realizing that there's a good chance that you won't. That was kind of my attitude approaching the last few months.

"Stay ready, work out, when my name's called, whether it be for a workout or something like this, then I'll be ready to go."

View photos from the week of practice as the Panthers prepare for their game against the Saints.