Gettis back in the game

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Officially, wide receiver David Gettis returned to action last November, 15 months after a major knee injury sidelined him.

But for all practical purposes, Gettis' real return came Friday night - two years after the injury - when he led the Panthers with three catches and 56 yards in a victory over the Chicago Bears to open the preseason.

"I'm excited to be back and playing," Gettis said. "Last year was me out there just to be there. This year they're giving me the opportunity to make plays and show where I'm at as far as my health and my overall knowledge of this offense. It's all positive things."

Gettis had already been feeling good about his progress behind the scenes prior to Friday, when he got the chance to flash the form he routinely displayed in 2010. That year, he ranked fourth among NFL rookie wide receivers with 508 receiving yards and fifth with 37 receptions.

Gettis was slated to again team with Steve Smith and fellow rookie Brandon LaFell in 2011, but he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a practice late in training camp. Since then, he's only been able to watch while LaFell and other wide receivers from the draft class of 2010 like Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas have further established themselves.

The injury happened early enough that Gettis was expected to be ready for the 2012 season, but a hamstring injury to the same leg landed him on the physically unable to perform list, and he only played a handful of snaps in a pair of late-season games.

But Gettis refused to let the series of setbacks get him down. With the help of a strong support system, he tried to make the best of the situation.

But Gettis refused to let the series of setbacks get him down. With the help of a strong support system, he tried to make the best of the situation.

"I was kind of able to sit back, watch the game from the sideline and learn. Now I'm applying it to this year and seeing where I'm at," Gettis said. "Health is definitely not a concern for me right now. I'm ready to go full throttle."

A track standout at Baylor, Gettis said Sunday that he's fully regained the speed he showcased as a rookie. Against the Bears, he showed how the threat of that speed as well as his improved route running can cause problems for opponents with two catches deep over the middle and one to the outside.

"He looks a lot better this year," second-year cornerback Josh Norman said. "He's improved his pass-catching skills and his ability to get off the ball, and that's the biggest thing for him. I know he got me on a play down toward the end zone at camp where he got off the ball well and had a nice release."

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said he was pleased with Gettis' effort Friday. Rivera also said he was very pleased with Smith and LaFell and was excited about seeing Armanti Edwards and Ted Ginn in action. In addition, Kealoha Pilares caught a pass, and Joe Adams averaged 17.5 yards on two punt returns. Domenik Hixon didn't play because of an injury.

That's more receivers than roster spots.

"You can't really focus on that," Gettis said. "I was always taught to focus on what you can do and what you have power over. The only things I have power over are making sure that when I'm on the field I run the proper routes, do the proper blocking assignments and catch the ball. I'll let the rest take care of itself.

"I've still got some things to work on, but it was good for me to get out there. Everything is about progressing now."

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