CHARLOTTE – Before PJ Walker played in his first NFL game in 2020, he ended his career in the short-lived XFL with a pair of interceptions in his last game with the Houston Roughnecks.
So Walker said he had bounced back from "a couple of games in (his) career where bad things just happen" in the past. He'll lean into that mindset this week as he gets another opportunity to start after a dismal effort in Cincinnati.
"As a quarterback, you cannot let that affect you; as a football player in general, you cannot let that affect you," Walker said. "For me, it's just to go out there and be you. Don't go out there and change your game. Don't go out there and take your aggressiveness away; be aggressively smart. That's the way you've got to approach this week."
Walker will make his fifth-straight start Thursday, after interim coach Steve Wilks opted to give him another shot. Wilks said the short turnaround for the upcoming Thursday night game against Atlanta was part of his decision, but Walker had also played a solid second half less than two weeks ago against the Falcons. So there was more reason than one for Wilks to pick Walker over Baker Mayfield, who came in for the second half in Cincinnati.
Walker was benched after a dreadful first-half performance against the Bengals, with just 9 yards on 3-of-10 passing with two interceptions.
The Panthers' offense struggled as a whole before halftime in Cincinnati and totaled just 32 yards and one first down (by a Bengals penalty) through the first half.
"I knew it just wasn't me," Walker said. "My mind was probably wandering, trying to do too much. It just didn't feel like I was out there feeling comfortable. …
"I was just trying to see too much on Sunday, and I haven't been doing that (this week). I've been narrowing my scope. … Don't think about it too much; just go out there and play. For me, it's just 'See a little, see a lot.'"
Mayfield helped Carolina put up three touchdowns in the eventual 42-21 loss, but Wilks saw what Walker could bring in his two more positive showings against Tampa Bay and Atlanta. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo stood by Wilks' decision to roll with Walker again.
"All these guys, they get here for a reason, right?" McAdoo said. "They all have something special in them. They all have a fight in them. They all have a competitiveness in them. I think there's something in there that makes (PJ) special.
"He's got a lot of fight, and for him to be here and to be playing the way he's played this year, outside of a couple quarters, says a lot about him. I still have a lot of faith in him; I still have a lot of confidence in him. We had a rough (first) half there the other day, but it's all within our control. It's all within PJ's control."
Walker impressed in the second half of the Panthers' 37-34 overtime loss to Atlanta. He bounced back from a pick-six just before halftime to go 13-of-21 in the second half for 250 yards and a touchdown – that 62-yard Hail Mary to DJ Moore at the end of the fourth quarter.
"I think I'm capable of that type of performance every week," Walker said. "So, for me, I've just got to go out there and do it. It's just go out there, do my job, and be resilient. Things happen throughout football games; try not to be fazed."
Walker said his teammates had supported him since the rough showing against the Bengals, and he continued to feel the faith when Wilks told him he'd get another chance to start.
"It feels good just to see that he trusts me; they've got a lot of faith in me to go out there, play, and get the job done on Thursday," Walker said. "At the end of the day, we're all here trying to win. That's the mindset for the team."
Check out the best photos from Tuesday's practice as the Panthers wore the new black helmets in anticipation of their debut on Thursday Night Football.