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Grill Bill: Best battles?


**@HendrickAche** Which training camp position battles are you most looking forward to? And are you expecting any more FA signings by the end of it?

In no particular order:

Left guard – Think it'll eventually go to Taylor Moton or Tyler Larsen.

No. 2 cornerback – You'd hope second-round pick Donte Jackson will rise to the top.

Nickel back – Kevon Seymour could eventually separate himself from the pack.

No. 2 quarterback – I'm not yet convinced the guy is on the roster.

No. 4/5 defensive ends – Despite being an untraditional fit, fourth-round pick Marquis Haynes may force coaches to find a place for him on the field.

And because of injuries, there's almost always a free agent signing or two during camp. But as usual, those would probably be more of a win-a-tryout-then-sign variety than a, "Hey, this guy's a recognizable name!" type of fix fans usually clamor for.


**@WhoisHoose** What's more important, finding a veteran number 2 TE with Manhertz down, or finding another player for the secondary?

As I wrote last month, Chris Manhertz will be sidelined for at least the start of camp with a left foot injury. That leaves Ian Thomas, Jason Vander Laan and Evan Baylis as the only healthy tight ends on the roster not named Greg Olsen.

Clearly, it's an opportunity for Thomas, who impressed coaches this spring. But the fourth-round pick is still so raw, it's hard to have huge expectations for that No. 2 spot just yet. Same could be said if Manhertz were healthy, though.

So the secondary is the answer to your question, but not how you phrased it.

The Panthers aren't looking for another player back there. They're banking on making it work with what they've got. So finding the right solutions with those guys is much more important than whoever emerges at TE2.


Website submission from Richard in Fayetteville, NC: Bill, How do you think the no. 2 CB and free safety positions will turn out?

I think we need to look at the No. 2 corner spot in a new way. The Panthers want to counter offenses with different matchups. So some weeks you could see a lot of Jackson on the outside. Other weeks it could be Seymour or Ross Cockrell.

Free safety is Da'Norris Searcy's job until he loses it and/or Rashaan Gaulden shows he's ready to be wholly trusted. So it should be Searcy through at least the early part of the season.


**@poet** We have more players able to handle PR/KR duties than I can ever remember the team having. Will there be a position battle there in the pre-season, or are certain players locked in? Sure to be more exciting either way.

I'm probably supposed to act like I know every answer in this column, but I can't even pretend with this one. Only thing I know about the returner situation is no one is locked in.

You're right: They have a ton of options – so many that I'm not going to list all of them since I'd likely forget someone.

Kenjon Barner probably makes the most sense. But why rule out Damiere Byrd? Or the occasional chance for Christian McCaffrey, Jackson or DJ Moore? Sure, you could make a good argument for why key position players shouldn't double as returners, but the Panthers will probably want to keep their options open.


**@PanthersFanAfr** On another topic entirely, can you clarify Obada's status this year Could he be promoted to the 53? Could he be claimed off our PS by another team? The status of guys in the 2nd year of the IPPP doesn't seem spelled out clearly anywhere.

OK, let's say Efe Obada doesn't make the 53-man roster, but the Panthers still want to keep him around. He'd first have to pass through waivers. If he went unclaimed, Carolina would have two options.

1.) Put Obada on the practice squad WITHOUT the International Player Pathway Program exemption. They'd then have the option to eventually promote him from the practice squad – and he'd be available to other teams if someone wanted to sign him to their 53-man roster.

2.) Put him on the practice squad WITH the IPPP exemption. That would mean he'd again be locked into the practice squad for all of 2018 because the Panthers would not be allowed to promote him and no other team could pluck him.


Website submission from Robert in Charlotte: With training camp fast approaching, who are the local players participating and who has the best chance to make the team? Every year, we see new players from the area compete, but it is good to know again. I love Julius Peppers, and know his connection, but remember when Brad Hoover made some noise many years back and helped to make his little town of Albemarle happy? Well, again, who should we keep our eyes on that played high school ball within the Charlotte metro and surrounding towns? Thank you for answering.

The Charlotte locals are Cockrell, running back Elijah Hood and wide receiver Austin Duke. If you're including Peppers, I may as well point out guard Taylor Hearn is from Williston, SC.

I have a feeling they may keep Peppers around. He seems to have done just enough in his career to earn another look. Cockrell's got an excellent chance to be on the roster, too. Hearn, an undrafted free agent out of Clemson, and Hood, who was released by the Raiders this offseason, are longer shots.

Which leads to …


**@APaleBreeze** What are Elijah hoods chances of making the roster?

With McCaffrey, C.J. Anderson, Cameron Artis-Payne ahead of him on the running back depth chart – and with Barner's special team abilities – it's going to be tough for Hood. That's why I've been saying his best hope to stick around may depend on whether he's able to contribute at fullback.


Website submission from Simon in Kannapolis, NC: Hi Bill, Which player from the Panthers roster would you pick to be your personal valet and why?

Like he is for so many of these random off-the-field questions, Luke Kuechly is an obvious answer. But when you say personal valet, I think of "Downton Abbey" which makes me think of Obada and his English accent.

Peppers would be great not just because it's, hello – Julius Peppers, the valet – but he could also double as a bodyguard.

Then there's Moton, who strikes me as an incredibly agreeable lad who'd be happy to lend a hand.

But I think I'll go with Olsen because I can't think of another job he'd dislike more.

"Greg, fetch me my book and a whiskey."

I don't have to imagine what face he'd make in return. I know it:

Carolina Panthers Greg Olsen during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan Ebenhack)

And now, the lightning round …


Email from Michael in Cape Cod, Mass.: Why do we always see the Panthers take photos in their all-black uniforms, but we rarely see them using them for games?

The folks who organize those photoshoots like the look of the all-blacks. But the folks on the football side have avoided it ever since the Panthers wore the combo during their 2013 playoff loss to the 49ers.


**@ArticPanther86** When will there be Sir Purr t-shirts for sale?

You must have seen those rare birds somewhere on social media. Good eye. For now, they're limited to giveaways and special Sir Purr appearances. The hope is they'll go on sale eventually.


Email from Josh: I certainly believe that WR and secondary will be huge focal points for fans as far as who sticks and who starts. With that being said, LG could be much more important for the success of this team. A lot of people, I think, are putting way too much into the fact that Ron has said Amini Silatolu will start camp there. Just like Seymour, Ron is putting in the guys who know the system and team to make a smooth transition. Would you agree?



**@KEVINMCC** Bill should be contractually obligated to actually grill out on days when this is posted.

I'm sorry, but this isn't in the form of a question.


Website submission from Gary in Daytona Beach, FL: When a player is suspended, what happens to his salary for the suspended games? Does the League collect it (if so what do they do with it?) or does the team just not pay him (and does that result in salary cap relief)?

The team withholds the prorated salary for the suspended game(s). And yes, the team does get a cap credit for the reduced amount.


Website submission from Ricky in Boone, NC: Who (in your opinion) is the most underrated player in Panthers history?

Chris Gamble.


**@jcshearer13** A little late but Open Championship pick??????

Zander Lombard.


**@kiefw15** Best and worst things about being in Spartanburg for 3 weeks?

Worst: Slow drivers in the left lane of I-85.

Best: White bean chili.

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