CHARLOTTE – What's Natrell Jamerson's NFL experience been like so far?
"It's been pinballing," he said after his first Panthers practice Monday.
Jamerson was taken by the Saints in the fifth round of last year's draft. He came out of Wisconsin as a versatile defensive back with experience at safety and cornerback, and the 5-foot-11, 201-pounder tested extremely well at the scouting combine, running a 4.4 40-yard dash and showing off his strength with 25 bench press reps.
But he never played a regular season game with the Saints. He was waived in September and was claimed by Houston. That's where he played the first 10 games of his career. Then the Texans waived him in December and the Packers picked him up.
He played two games for Green Bay and was with them throughout the offseason before being waived in the final roster cutdown.
"The first time I went through (changing teams) it was mind-boggling. But you kind of adjust to it. At this point I am just trying to find a home," Jamerson said.
"Kind of tired of moving around. I'm trying to make Carolina my home."
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney pounced when Jamerson became available. He had been tracking Jamerson throughout the summer.
"He is a guy who we've liked for a while," Hurney said. "He's got a good burst and explosion. Not only can he play corner, but he's played safety, and he's got position flexibility back there. He's played special teams. He can play gunner. He can play the vice. So he brings a real variety and talents to us, and I think he'll help us."
Jamerson said he was "shocked" when his agent told him the Panthers were so interested. As Hurney said, they love his versatility and plan to take advantage of it.
"I'll start off at cornerback and get a feel for the defense," Jamerson said. "As I progress we'll see how it goes."
Jamerson played all over the place in college. He started off with the Badgers at wide receiver before moving to defense and getting a shot at nickel. He moved to safety for his senior season and played the best football of his career, posting 51 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions (one returned for a score), and 10 pass breakups. He was a special teams stalwart throughout.
The NFL has essentially labeled Jamerson a defensive back with ability to play multiple spots. He'll provide depth at corner and safety in Carolina as he gets up to speed in the system, but special teams will be his true calling card, especially early on.
"Play fast and physical," Jamerson said. "That's my job, to make an impact so they keep me around."
View photos from Monday's practice of Week 1 as the Panthers prepare to face the Rams.