SPARTANBURG, S.C. – With two rookies getting a fair share of attention and a former Australian Rules Football player coming home to give the NFL a shot, Scott Simonson is one tight end who has subsequently flown under the radar.
But the Panthers coaching staff and front office have taken notice of his improved play and reliable hands during camp.
"Scott Simonson is most certainly playing himself onto the roster, that's for sure," head coach Ron Rivera said after a recent practice. "He's done some really nice things. He's just got to continue that."
The 24-year-old Simonson, who recorded his first career catch for 10 yards last season, is making a strong push to be the No. 3 tight end behind established veterans Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson.
An undrafted rookie from Assumption College two years ago, Simonson said his understanding of the offense has come a long way.
"I just try to focus on the mental aspect. I know that's the No. 1 thing," Simonson said. "If you know what you're doing and you have confidence, you'll play a whole lot better. I really focus on that. And being with the team for a year, it's a lot easier. I know the system a lot better.
"When they can trust that you know what you're doing, they are going to give you more chances."
At 6-5, 255 pounds, Simonson fits the mold of Carolina's do-it-all tight ends.
He's proven to be a capable blocker, which is critical if you're going to play for tight ends coach Pete Hoener.
"Coach Pete – he's helped a lot in terms of the blocking aspect," Simonson said. "Coming from a small school, I was more of a receiver type. I knew blocking was going to be the thing I had to work on in the NFL. He works you. Some guys might not like it, but in reality it really does help your technique. It showed me how much easier everything becomes when you have the right technique."
Simonson intends to build on his strong training camp performance with production in the four preseason contests. He knows the competition for positioning on the roster is far from finished.
"When it comes down to it, the games are the number-one thing to prove that you can play in this league," he said. "It's the NFL – there is going to be competition every year. I was prepared for it. Everyone is fighting for a spot."
View photos of Carolina's 11th practice at training camp.