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Notebook: Sam Franklin prepares for a starting role at safety

Sam Franklin

CHARLOTTE – Sam Franklin Jr. said his role isn't to be "Superman" in the secondary, but the Panthers' safety said he is taking on the task of earning his teammates' confidence as he steps in this week against Minnesota.

With starter Xavier Woods working through a hamstring injury sustained at Seattle, Franklin is set to line up opposite Vonn Bell in a role heavy on communication and direction.

"Communication is always going to be one of the things that we always highly talk about, week in and week out," Franklin said. "We drive the bus from the back, so we've got to make sure everybody's on the same page. We've got to make sure everybody knows what they're going to do.

"This week, Vonn and I just took it upon ourselves to do a little bit of extra, making sure that we're on the same page, so we know what we're looking at, what we're getting, and just to build some more confidence going into this game."

Franklin and the Panthers' defense will face a worthy challenge when Kirk Cousins and the Vikings come to Charlotte. Despite its 0-3 start, Minnesota boasts the NFL's second-best passing offense in net pass yards per game (339.7 average), one of the league's top receivers in Justin Jefferson, and a sharp tight end in T.J. Hockenson. 

"Explosive," Franklin said of the Vikings' offense. "They've got one of the top leading receivers with Justin Jefferson, and then they have the tight end with the most receptions by any tight end. So they're versatile. They have a strong running attack, and they have a veteran quarterback. So we're going to have to play this game ahead of the sticks, know what we're getting, have good eyes, and play good defense." 

Franklin said he has been getting advice from Woods and Bell throughout the season, even while he wasn't seeing the field on defense and continued his role as a prominent special teams contributor.

"I just want to pick their mind, just in case," Franklin said. "Like even last game, I was picking X's mind before the game. I picked Vonn's. 'Alright, OK, well this is what you see, what you want to do, how you want to move right here,' just to get a little bit of their veteran (knowledge) because they have a lot of snaps underneath their belt."

– Rookie quarterback Bryce Young participated in full after missing every practice last week and the Seattle game with an ankle injury he sustained against the Saints.

Head coach Frank Reich said after practice that Young "looked good" and took his normal percentage of reps in Wednesday's practice.

"First thing I would say is hats off to Bryce for getting himself ready to get out there today," Reich said. "You could see the determination in his eyes. You could feel his energy and the will to be out there. And he did get through the whole practice."

Reich said the next step with Young would be to see how he responds Thursday to a full practice the day before, and that'll help determine whether he'll be ready to start again against the Vikings on Sunday.

"Just have to make sure there's no major setbacks, no flare-ups," Reich said. "But if he stays on track, then I think things are headed in the right direction."

– Reich dove into the team's mindset heading into a Week 4 matchup after an 0-3 start.

This week's preparation is about urgency and being intentional. But it's not coming out with desperation, and that's the part he's been focused on. 

"We're urgent, we're not desperate," Reich said. "You don't want to get into desperate mode. Listen, when you're 0-3, people start talking about 'must-win.' To us, every game is a must-win game. It's not desperation because we know our process. We know our players. We know we're giving everything to the moment.

"The team is continuing to grow and build. So it's the same for every team. But you go through those. Some teams go through it 0-3; some go through it 3-0. This has happened for us. We've talked about (how) we've got to handle it well, stay focused and disciplined with that sense of urgency."

– Wide receiver Adam Thielen's three children are getting acclimated to being Panthers fans since they grew up cheering for their father throughout his nine-year Vikings career before he came to Carolina this offseason.

Their family trip to sign at Bank of America Stadium in March helped them, Thielen said, since they got to run around and see everything in Charlotte.

But there are still some questions that pop up.

"They grew up Vikings fans," Thielen said. "I mean, they grew up in that every single day. Going to the facility, we drive by the facility like, 'Oh, there's the Vikings' stadium.' They grew up in that in that mindset. So I think they were a little confused at first.

"But then I think it made it more real when we were able to come here when I signed, and they were able to run on the field and all that. It made a little bit more real for them. But yeah, it's definitely been different.

"My youngest son, he is actually on (a) flag football team (called) the Vikings. So when he found out that he was on the Vikings, he's like, 'What, like, you can't cheer for me now because I'm on the Vikings?' So I had to explain to him that I can still cheer for him."

His oldest son, who is about to be 7 years old, is a big fan of Justin Jefferson – so big that he emulated Jefferson's celebration dance when he scored a flag football touchdown this week.

"My oldest son scored a touchdown in flag football on Saturday, and he did the griddy, so that probably shows you who his favorite player is," Thielen said. "He's a big Justin fan. I'm pretty sure he wanted Justin's jersey over mine."

View photos from the Panthers' practice on Wednesday.

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