Opportunity knocks for Edwards, Clowney

CHARLOTTE – Armanti Edwards has been on the Carolina Panthers' roster for nearly six months now, and David Clowney has been in the NFL for more than three years.

Both wide receivers, however, feel like they just heard their name called at the draft because both believe they'll hear their number called for the first time in a Panthers regular season game come Sunday.

"I'm excited," Edwards said. "I've been sitting here waiting for this opportunity all season, and now I've got to take advantage of it."

For Edwards, a rookie who's been inactive for the first four games of the season, Sunday's visit by the Chicago Bears could bring his first chance to play in a real game.

For Clowney, who was waived by the New York Jets on Monday and claimed by the Panthers on Tuesday, it could be a second chance to make a first impression.

"I'm ready to be a Panther and go out here and help this organization," Clowney said. "It's an opportunity being with a new team; it's like a brand-new start."

Steve Smith has been ruled out of Sunday's game with an ankle sprain he suffered last week at New Orleans. Smith's absence, combined the release of Dwayne Jarrett on Tuesday, means the Panthers have Clowney – a fifth-round draft pick in 2007 – and a trio of rookie receivers in Edwards, David Gettis and Brandon LaFell available.

While Gettis and LaFell already have started games, Edwards and Clowney hope recent developments can jumpstart their careers. Both are trying to forge a new path – Edwards at a new position, Clowney with a new team.

Edwards has been a quarterback his entire football life, becoming the first Division I player to pass for 10,000 yards and rush for 4,000 yards during his days at Appalachian State, but the Panthers drafted him in the third round with the intent of converting him to receiver.

The transition has been trying, but Edwards has continued to work and may be on the verge of reaping the fruits of his labor.

"When I'm trying new things, I always expect the worst that can happen. I knew it was going to be tough," Edwards said. "I just had to stay focused and try to get better every day.

"I'm still making a couple of mistakes, but I've turned up the intensity, and overall I think I've done pretty good. I wouldn't say it's easy, but I know the plays now and I'm doing less thinking as I'm running routes. I'm running my routes faster and coming out of the breaks better."

Edwards has rediscovered a gear by sitting out the first month of the regular season. He said the volume of route running – and just plain running – at wide receiver versus quarterback had taken a toll, but now he's back in the fast lane.

"This is the best I've felt in a while," Edwards said. "Even though I'm practicing, I've not being playing on the weekends, so that's like four days off basically. With that, I've gotten my legs back."

Clowney, too, is known for his speed above all. While Edwards has been clocked in the 4.4 range in the 40, Clowney ran a 4.37 at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2007.

Clowney, however, wants to be known for more than just his speed, and he hopes the Panthers provide that opportunity.

"I think sometimes when you're with an organization for a long time, they kind of put a stamp on you," Clowney said. "With the Jets, my stamp was that I was only a deep-threat guy.
"Maybe being here, I'll get an opportunity to run different routes and be involved as a full, complete receiver."

One area in which Clowney doesn't mind being typecast as fast is on the mental side of things. He first saw the Panthers playbook Wednesday morning, just four days before the Bears game.

"I think it's coming along real fast. I'm a quick learner," Clowney said. "Every NFL team runs the same routes, runs the same plays – it's just that the terminology is different. I don't think it will be too hard."

Now that Edwards and Clowney appear to be up to speed, they're hoping to make an immediate impact for a Panthers team off to the slowest of starts.

"There's no doubt everybody is looking to us," Edwards said. "We have three rookie receivers, and we've brought in one that's in his fourth year, so we're all young.

"We've got to get the passing game going."

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