CHARLOTTE — Rasul Douglas is a competitor. The cornerback embraces challenges like learning a new playbook in just a few days. He doesn't back down just because circumstances might be against him.
Douglas, 25, isn't a rookie and brought 18 games of starting experience into last week's season opener against the Raiders. But he wasn't expecting to play much. Instead, he thought he'd be a cheerleader, supporting his teammates and telling them what he saw on the sideline. After all, the Panthers claimed Douglas off waivers from the Eagles the previous Sunday and he'd gained access to the Panthers' facility just three days later after clearing COVID-19 testing protocols.
"And then 'Jack' (Donte Jackson) went down, and coach was like, 'Go ahead, go in,'" Douglas said Thursday.
Douglas acquitted himself admirably in spot duty. He played 81 percent of Carolina's defensive snaps, recording a pair of passes defensed in the 34-30 loss.
But it's because the Panthers fell to 0-1 that Douglas wasn't all that satisfied with his performance.
"It was just OK. At the end of the day, we lost, so who cares about any individual stat that we all had? That means nothing to any one of us," Douglas said. "Our team goal is to go 1-0 every week, and we did not accomplish that."
But Douglas' performance proved coaches could trust him. Head coach Matt Rhule appreciated how the corner approached the game and that Douglas wanted to be in man-to-man coverage.
Douglas' attitude plus his work ethic got him prepared on such short notice. Once he got in the building, he took Wednesday and Thursday to learn the defensive scheme. He'd take the Panthers defensive calls and translate them to what he was familiar with from the Eagles' system.
"Made a lot of mistakes in practice, gave up a few things," Douglas said.
Then on Friday and Saturday, things started to click. With the help of cornerbacks coach Evan Cooper, Douglas felt like he had enough of a grasp on the system to contribute. So when Jackson suffered an ankle injury on the Raiders' second drive, Douglas didn't want coaches to pull back on their gameplan.
"I've got years in the league," said Douglas, who was an Eagles' third-round pick in 2017. "Call whatever you want to call for the situation, and let us go."
But that wasn't easy. Douglas would turn around and ask safeties Tre Boston and Juston Burris his exact assignment before each play. Linebacker Shaq Thompson assisted with that, too, at certain points. Having no fans in the stands significantly aided their communication because it was easier to hear.
While Douglas appreciated the help, he doesn't want to use the crutch any longer.
"(I)t makes them play slower because I don't know what I'm doing," Douglas said. "But as the game went on, I definitely got more comfortable in the calls."
This week, defensive coordinator Phil Snow plans to have Douglas, Jackson, and rookie Troy Pride Jr. rotate at corner.
"I think everybody in the league plays three corners and plays them quite a bit," Snow said.
As of Thursday, Douglas hadn't been informed one way or another of the team's plans for him.
"I'm a cheerleader until I'm in the game," he said.
Douglas does have some history with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. He was with the Eagles when they beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, though he did not play any defensive snaps in that game. But last year, Douglas was on the field for 24 percent of Philadelphia's defensive reps in their Week 11 lose to New England.
"(Brady's) not going to throw an interception if he doesn't have to," Douglas said. "Great quarterback."
As the Panthers move forward, Douglas' story resonates with the team, particularly its young players.
"He was ready and you see how he played on Sunday," rookie safety Jeremy Chinn said. "When your time comes, you've got to make the most of it."
NEWS AND NOTES
— The Panthers still plan to go week-to-week in determining their backup quarterback. Rhule reiterated Thursday that the Panthers feel they can with both Will Grier and PJ Walker. Grier was the backup in Week 1, with Walker inactive.
— Offensive coordinator Joe Brady took responsibility for the failed fourth-and-1 call for fullback Alex Armah at the end of Sunday's loss.
"We had a call that we felt confident with, and we didn't execute," Brady said. "I have to be better."
— Brady also said his play calling was the issue at the start of the third quarter when the Panthers had a pair of three-and-outs.
"Those are the drives I thought about after the game, immediately," Brady said. "I've got to be better on those drives, got to be better coming out of the second half."
— Rhule has seen McCaffrey's GQ photoshoot, noting an offensive lineman showed it to him.
"I just wish someone would ask me to do something like that," Rhule joked.
View practice photos from inside the Atrium Health Dome as the Panthers prepare to take on the Buccaneers in Week 2.