CHARLOTTE – In life and in football, connections are important.
Wide receiver Donte Moncrief is a prime example. The former Steeler was waived after falling out of favor. He struggled to play through a dislocated finger he suffered in training camp, and his Week 1 performance – three catches for seven yards on 10 targets – was one he called his "worst game ever."
But Carolina wide receivers coach Jim Hostler had worked with Moncrief before in Indianapolis. In 2015 with the Colts, he posted career highs in receptions (64) and receiving yards (733) to go along with six receiving touchdowns. So the Panthers gave him another shot and claimed him off waivers.
"That's huge, man, to have a coach who coached you up on your best year," Moncrief said. "Just having him back around feels good."
Head coach Ron Rivera acknowledged the Hostler-Moncrief relationship when asked about the decision to pick up the former third-round pick from Ole Miss.
And now that he's fully healthy, Moncrief is hoping for a chance to finish what's been a tough season on a high note.
"It's not sore anymore, I can actually squeeze my hand, so I feel like it's going to be a good season," Moncrief said. "I'm ready to finish the season strong here."
GVR revenge game?
Left guard Greg Van Roten was asked questions about Kyle Allen and Christian McCaffrey and the Packers defense.
Then his "revenge game" was finally mentioned and he got a good laugh.
Van Roten's NFL career started in Green Bay from 2012-13. After starting out on the practice squad, he played in 10 games over that two-year span. He then played 32 games for the Toronto Argonauts in the 2015 and 2016 seasons before coming to Carolina in 2017.
"I'm excited to go back," Van Roten said. "That's where my career started. It kind of sputtered before it got going up there. It's not the same front office when I was there, but definitely excited to go back to where it began."
Van Roten takes a lot of pride in how much he's grown as a player since. Now he's entrenched as a starter with Carolina, opening holes for arguably the league's best running back.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity Green Bay afforded me at the beginning of my career," Van Roten said. "I love football and I'm hopefully going to continue to play at a high level."
It'd be a little understandable if cornerback James Bradberry was caught off guard on the first defensive snap of last week's game against Tennessee.
Teams had been leery of challenging Bradberry, but Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill targeted him on play No. 1, launching a deep ball to wide receiver Tajae Sharpe down the sideline. Bradberry was in pretty good position and the pass fell incomplete. But then a flag was thrown for pass interference, a 42-yard penalty.
"When I looked back at the film, I wasn't surprised. But at the time I was," Bradberry said. "As he was falling, I was looking back for the ball, so I was playing the ball. I don't know what else you want me to do. Sideline judge told me I made him fall."
Late in the game, Bradberry was again penalized for pass interference, but that one was intentional. The play was extended and he lost track of wide receiver Corey Davis down the field.
"Yeah, that was definitely PI," Bradberry said with a smile. "It was a double move on an extended play. I didn't know where the ball was. I just wanted to make sure he didn't catch it."
At any rate, the penalty was wiped out thanks to an illegal hands to the face penalty on the Tennessee O-line.
But Bradberry soon after exited the game with a groin injury. He hasn't practiced yet this week but believes he's on track to play against the Packers
"For sure. It's getting better," Bradberry said.
This is real earth-shattering stuff, but the Panthers sure could use their No. 1 corner against Aaron Rodgers. Bradberry ranks second in the NFL among corners who have played at least 80 percent of snaps with a 52.6 passer rating against him.
"It's a huge test for us," Bradberry said.
Norv sees a lot of growth potential
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner repeated the word "disappointed" when talking about quarterback Cam Newton landing on injured reserve.
"I'm disappointed for Cam," Turner said. "I know how much it means to him and how hard he's worked doing everything he can to get healthy."
But the Panthers have to move forward with Allen. The second-year quarterback has done some good things, winning five of his six starts this year, and Turner expects him to play better as the year progresses. Same goes for the entire offense.
"We have so much room for improvement," Turner said. "We've got a quarterback who has started seven games, two receivers that are essentially in their second year. We probably have six or seven starters under 25 years old. It's an exciting group. We have a lot to be excited about."
Turner was very excited about the performances put forth by wide receivers DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel last week versus the Titans.
Moore had seven catches for 101 yards and Samuel posted three receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown. This after the duo was taking a bit of heat.
"It was very much like the performance they had in London. I guess because it was in London it didn't count," Turner quipped.
And really, Moore especially could have had a lot more production if a couple of Allen's passes were more on target.
"Honestly, DJ was behind them two or three more times," Turner said. "He could have ended with two or three touchdowns. We've just got to get the ball out sooner and get it out further."