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Jordan Matthews staying ready if they need him at tight end

Jordan Matthews

Interim Carolina Panthers coach Chris Tabor mentioned during Wednesday's news conference how the team was in the fourth quarter of the season.

With the team officially eliminated from the playoffs, some might think it'd be easy for the Panthers to be an unmotivated, directionless team entering its final four games, beginning with Sunday's 1 p.m. home game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Not veteran tight end Jordan Matthews.

"Personally, I always believe there's always something to play for in the NFL," said Matthews, a 31-year-old veteran in his 10th NFL season. "One, you're playing for pride. And two, this organization has given each of us a chance to play the game that we love and to feed our families. I don't take that for granted. I've got a wife and three kids at home."

Matthews, a second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles after a record-setting career at Vanderbilt, has 76 games of NFL experience with 46 starts, has played in two postseason games, and even has an NFL playoff touchdown catch.

A Panthers' practice squad addition on Oct. 25, Matthews has been a scout team regular at a position group that has had to deal with multiple injuries this season.

"He's a guy who's played a lot of football in this league," Tabor said of Matthews, who played wide receiver for the Eagles before making the conversion to tight end in San Francisco before coming to Carolina. "If called up, he's a guy that can obviously run. (And) we played him in the Chicago game. He gives us some other unique things at that position."

The five players the Panthers have used at tight end — Matthews, Hayden Hurst, Stephen Sullivan, Ian Thomas and Tommy Tremble — have combined for 44 receptions for 411 yards on 71 targets with four touchdowns.

The position group has suffered through injuries as Sullivan and Thomas missed four games apiece on injured reserve, and Hurst has been inactive for the last four games while in the NFL concussion protocol.

And following Thomas' ankle injury last week at New Orleans and the uncertainty about Hurst's status, some think Matthews may have a chance to be active on Sunday.

Jordan Matthews

At Vanderbilt, he set Southeastern Conference career records for receptions (262) and yards (3,759) - both have since been broken by current Eagles star receiver DeVonta Smith at Alabama. Matthews has had 274 catches for 3,288 yards and 22 touchdowns in his NFL career, including a breakout season of 85 catches for 997 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015 for the Eagles.

"I'm prepared every week," Matthews said. "I want to thank the organization for bringing me in, and they know I can play football. "(But) this has been a numbers game from the very beginning. Unfortunately, this team has struggled with injuries. That's the fact of what it's been. I know if I have the opportunity to be up that they know what I can do — on special teams and as a tight end."

Matthews is impressed by the attitude he's seen from his teammates, even as they are struggling this season with a current 1-12 record.

"This organization knows they're going to get my best every single day," Matthew said. "And I think that understanding is permeating this locker room. You don't see guys hanging their heads or bringing the wrong attitude to practice."

View photos from the Panthers' practice on Wednesday in Week 15.

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