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Carolina Panthers

Strickly Panthers: Captain salutes secondary


SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Captain Munnerlyn hears the whispers, the chatter here and there that the Panthers need another cornerback.

Munnerlyn's answer to the question comes through loud and clear.

"We're fine," Munnerlyn said. "The young guys, they're stepping up, and I'm still here and still learning. I feel like we're fine with the safeties and corners that we have, but if we pick up another guy, that would be great, too."

Munnerlyn, a third-year cornerback from South Carolina, got lots of experience late last season when fellow cornerback Chris Gamble was sidelined with injuries, and he stepped up to the challenge. Munnerlyn tied for second on the team with three interceptions, including a pick that he returned for a touchdown at the Cleveland Browns.

Safety Charles Godfrey led the team with five interceptions, and cornerback Richard Marshall matched Munnerlyn with three, but Marshall signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals.

"Somewhere along the line we're going to look at it, but right now I think the guys that are working have shown well," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "Guys are getting opportunities, and there are guys that are flashing for us right now, so we feel pretty confident with that. They wouldn't be here if we didn't have confidence in them."

Second-year cornerback Robert McClain and second-year safety Jordan Pugh have made a lot of plays early in camp. They both, along with undrafted rookie cornerback Kendric Burney, came up with interceptions during the first padded practice of training camp Monday evening.

Another youngster the Panthers look forward to seeing in action is rookie Brandon Hogan, a fourth-round draft choice out of West Virginia who hasn't been cleared to practice yet as he continues to recover from knee surgery.

Hogan and Munnerlyn are sharing a dorm room at training camp.

"I just told him to study his playbook because these undrafted guys are out here making a lot of plays. I told him he's got to stay in the playbook so that when you come back, it's like you're not missing a beat," Munnerlyn said. "He's got a lot of potential. I watched a little bit of film when we drafted him, and I've seen him catching a couple of punts. He looks pretty good."


BROWN BACK: In his final five games of the 2010 season, defensive end Everette Brown collected 3.5 sacks, including sacks of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan on back-to-back plays.

"I was turning it up," Brown said. "The game was slowing down for me, and I was playing faster."

The second sack, however, was his last – his last sack, and his last play. Brown suffered a season-ending wrist injury on the Week 14 play, but he's at full speed at training camp and ready to pick up where he left off.

"I had more time than ever to rehab it," said Brown, who wore a hard cast for 10 weeks following surgery in December. "I'm reaping the benefits now because I have a great foundation as far as being in shape and getting my wrist strong. At training camp, I'll just keep building on it."

Brown, a third-year pro from Florida State, finished strong in 2010, but only after he didn't pick up any sacks during the first half of the season.

"We've got to get off to a fast start. That's what it's going to take," Brown said. "We've got to come out firing, setting a tone, and we can't let the opposing team match it."


WRIGHT STUFF: The Panthers brought in wide receiver Wallace Wright last offseason because of his long history of strong special teams play, and Wright responded by also making a strong push for serious playing time at receiver.

Wright, however, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury on an impressive reception in the third preseason game versus Tennessee.

"I've been working out since before the Super Bowl, trying to get back," Wright said. "I'm back now."
Every day at the end of practice, Wright makes a bee-line for the JUGS Football Machine, spending several minutes in the sweltering heat snaring fastball after fastball fired his way.

Wright, a University of North Carolina product, feels like he's now on the fast track.

"Last year was tough, especially because I had never missed any football. Being out and watching my team struggle was really tough," Wright said. "Now, my mindset is to come out and compete and get the starting job. Everything is open."

WEDNESDAY SCHEDULE: Players began a weekly 24-hour break mandated by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement following practice Tuesday but will be back on the field Wednesday at 6 p.m.

The Panthers planned the break in such a way to allow them to not skip a calendar day of practice. Also, with more than 20 players eligible to practice for the first time Thursday when the new league year officially starts, the early-in-the-week break means those players' attempt to catch up won't be interrupted by the break.

Fans are encouraged to arrive early for Wednesday's practice in order to take part in NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's fan forum, scheduled to begin at 5:15 p.m.

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