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Carolina Panthers

Rivera's Remarks: Possible changes at LB, WR


Comments from Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera.

On linebacker Omar Gaither's knee injury: He really didn't (get much better), so we listed him as doubtful. I'm hoping that tomorrow he can get out and run around; he didn't run around today, so that's a little bit of a concern.

On who would start at linebacker if Gaither cannot play: We get Dan (Connor) back, James Anderson and Jordan Senn. Dan would play in the middle. The sub package would be by committee. Those three guys would work it, and then we'll have Kion (Wilson) as one of the back-ups as well as Jason Williams as the other back-up. The emergency back-up will be (Antwan) Applewhite.

On wide receiver Legedu Naanee's ankle injury: Legedu didn't do much today either, so there is concern at that position as well.

On what is wrong with Naanee's ankle: Tendinitis. He did roll it, but the tendinitis is really what has been bothering him. It has been hampering him in terms of practicing.

On who the third wide receiver would be if Brandon LaFell starts in place of Naanee: That would be a little bit of a committee thing as well with (Seyi) Ajirotutu, (Armanti) Edwards and then (Kealoha) Pilares. But the guys who would probably end up rotating in the 11 package would be Ajirotutu and Edwards.

On how Naanee has done as the number-two wide receiver: He has done exactly what you want. The biggest thing about the way our receivers are used is we have them block downfield. He's an aggressive guy. He was a big part of what he had done in terms of running the ball in San Diego, and he came in and fit that bill right off the bat. Secondly, you look for that complimentary receiver to Steve (Smith), your go to guy. And Legedu has been that guy as well.

The thing that has been really nice is the development of Brandon LaFell in that specific role. Most of his big plays have come in certain situations where the ball's being pushed downfield, and that's where Brandon can shine. A lot of Legedu's catches come in traffic where a lot of Brandon's are going away from traffic. So, obviously, we use those receivers differently. It will be interesting to see how Brandon copes with having to run the different types of routes that are required by that position. There are some different things that he's going to have to adapt to as far as trying to get used to playing that position.

On what are the different things LaFell would have to do as the number-two receiver: More of his routes are going to change. He's used to coming into the nickel position. As the nickel receiver, depending on where his alignment is, predominantly most of his routes are working away from traffic – some of his quick hitting underneath stuff. Based on what Legedu has done, a lot of those crossers right through the middle into traffic, those are the types of things that he would have to do a little bit differently. It will be interesting to see how he handles it. When you're the Z and there are only two receivers out there, there is a little bit more focus on the two receivers, obviously. The good thing for us is we have the two tight ends that help alleviate things. But, still, the focus becomes on the receivers.


On if making catches over the middle in traffic has been difficult for LaFell: No. I just think that when you are used to certain routes, now you've got to adjust. Part of it, too, is you've got to adjust your alignment; you've got to adjust the pace on your routes. We've all seen his growth. With him and potentially (David) Gettis coming back and being healthy, I look forward to that with those two young guys. As I said when I got here, I was real excited about those two young guys, and I still am, especially because we've seen the growth.

On if LaFell or Naanee has been used mostly in the slot: They've been moved around. But when he (Brandon) takes over for Legedu, those specific routes are different, and that's the big thing, too. That's why he's going to have to get used to it. The thing we'll try to with Ajirotutu and Edwards playing is we'll want to get to 11 personnel and put LaFell back at his comfortable spot.

On what he would like to see happen at the number-two wide receiver position beyond this year: The biggest thing is the competition. I'm excited about it, because it's a group of guys we really like. Then the other fun thing is we get Gettis back, who was at the time (of his injury) starting to ascend. The big reason we brought Legedu in, I kind of saw (early in training camp) Gettis and LaFell not doing the things that we were hoping they could do. That's what prompted me to sit down with Chud (offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski) and talk to (general manager) Marty (Hurney) and say, "Hey, we need to do something." And we did. Then you started to see them both start to ascend.

The thing you really can't put a price on is what Legedu has meant in terms of telling the guys what you have to do in this offense. It's one thing to try and show it on tape. But when you have a guy that can actually sit there and tell you. That's why (offensive consultant) Ricky Proehl has been so invaluable, too. Ricky's been in this system as well, and he can explain it to them and help them. But when you have a guy that's actually running it now and involved in the middle of it, it helps. That's probably the biggest thing that we've gotten from having him around.

On if the Panthers will try to bring Naanee back next season: Absolutely. The scary part for us is he is going to be a free agent, and we're trying to see how things are going to unfold. But you take all of those receivers going into camp, you let them compete and you find out exactly what you've got.

On if the Panthers will use more two-tight end sets with Jeremy Shockey back: Yes, very much so. We did use Richie Brockel and Ben Hartsock (last week) in terms of what Shockey would have normally done.

On if the Panthers would like to re-sign Shockey, who will be a free agent after this season: That group is a solid group. There are some things about that group that we really like. And, obviously, we get Gary Barnidge back; I'm excited about that. When we were coming out of camp, we were trying to decide how many (tight ends) we were going to keep. Unfortunately, the injury to Gary precipitated us to do what we did. That was to keep the three tight ends plus Richie, who is a jack of all trades for us.

On if rookie cornerback Brandon Hogan will play this week: He started to feel better yesterday. We'll see but probably not. The young man has taken some big steps. Unfortunately, having to practice on the turf last week set him back. The thing we've got to remember, too, is he's not even a year yet post-op.

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