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Notebook: Scott Fitterer analyzes roster after initial cutdown, new signings

Scott Fitterer

CHARLOTTE – It's been thoroughly documented that Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer was the director of college scouting in Seattle when a rookie Russell Wilson was getting his feet under him in 2012.

It took Wilson time to get in the rhythm back then, as Fitterer recalled in Thursday's press conference, eventually finding strong consistency toward the back half of the season, leading the Seahawks' offense to 50 points or more in games against Arizona and at Buffalo.

That wisdom can be applied to the reworked Panthers' roster, led by a rookie quarterback in Bryce Young, with an all-new coaching staff and a host of new faces around the offense.

"It took a second," Fitterer said of Wilson's rookie performance. "It took six, seven, eight games. … So it's going to take a few weeks. We have a 53-man roster, and you have 24 new faces on it and new coaches; it's going to take a little time in the beginning. 

"But this group will come together. I think it's going to be a strong group."

Fitterer's math is correct – 24 within the Panthers' 52 active players (Tight end Stephen Sullivan had just been placed on injured reserve before his press conference, and the corresponding move hasn't been made yet.) were not at Carolina this time last year – including starting wide receivers Adam Thielen, DJ Chark Jr., and Jonathan Mingo, starting running back Miles Sanders, and starting tight end Hayden Hurst, all new weapons for Young. 

As a whole, Fitterer said he sat down with assistant general manager Dan Morgan and went through the whole roster, position by position, comparing it to the 2022 edition. 

For the most part, they drew positives.

"We had mostly positive, a couple equals; there was one negative," Fitterer said. "But overall, I just thought like, 'You know what? We're making progress.' It's where we want to be. Every year, I say our goal is to win the NFC South. And I think, even with all the new faces, the new staff, and all the changes that are taking place, that's our goal. And I think if we play (to) our ability, that's definitely within reach."

– At the same time, this roster isn't quite complete. 

There's obviously still an open spot on the active roster after Sullivan's move, and Fitterer said the roster will remain "fluid" over the weekend. They also haven't filled out the last five practice squad spots yet. 

"There's a chance to keep (the last spot) open right now, because we're still setting the practice squad," Fitterer said. "We have guys flying in, and things are fluid. You have to take physicals, pass physicals and those types of things. 

"But we'll see it. The roster is still going to be fluid here over the weekend. And hopefully it's pretty well set by Monday, going into a game week. But we'll take the next 72 hours or so to finish things."

– Fitterer also mentioned that he would "like to" sign second-year quarterback Matt Corral back to the practice squad if he clears waivers. Corral was cut Wednesday after the Panthers acquired three more players from the waiver wire.

"We just have to see if he clears today," Fitterer said of Corral. "We'll see what happens. That was a, you know, it's a tough decision. I like Matt as a person. Anytime you have a guy that you take and bring in, you're developing, you see progress. It's tough, but you're just trying to keep your best 53."

The Panthers will know if Corral cleared waivers by 4 p.m. Thursday.

– Head coach Frank Reich said they'd reassess the situations with the three injured receivers – Terrace Marshall Jr. (back), Laviska Shenault Jr. (concussion protocol), and DJ Chark Jr. (hamstring) – following the Labor Day break.

He said they'll continue coming in for treatment this weekend and were "making good progress," but declined to confirm Week 1 availability for any trio. Marshall and Shenault returned to the practice field this week.

"I think it's too early to tell for sure," Reich said of their status for the Sept. 10 opener at Atlanta. "I like the progress they're making."

– Outside linebacker Brian Burns was present but didn't participate at practice Thursday due to a "personal matter," per Reich. 

Burns did not speak to reporters after practice. 

"It's impossible for me to have more respect than I do for Brian," Reich said. "That's his personal matter."

View photos of the Panthers' practice on Wednesday.

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