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Strickly Panthers: QB race far from over


SPARTANBURG, S.C. - The world wants to know which Panthers quarterback will take the first snap in Saturday's preseason opener against the New York Giants, but head coach Ron Rivera isn't saying.

Rivera did offer a message, though: In some ways, it doesn't really matter.

Second-year quarterback Jimmy Clausen is listed first on the initial unofficial depth chart of training camp, and rookie Cam Newton is listed second.

The competition, however, is far from over regardless of what the first depth chart says and regardless of who starts Saturday.

"We're most certainly going to mix and match so it's a fair competition," Rivera said. "We want to see how each guy looks with each offensive line. It would be unfair to have one guy with the ones, one guy with the twos, one guy play against a one defense, the other guy play against a two defense, and then say which one looks better."

Rivera said it's entirely possible that different quarterbacks will start at different times during the preseason. If nothing blatantly changes in the closeness of the competition between now and the third preseason game, that's when the first indicator of the regular season pecking order could come to light.

"That's going to be our mock game week," Rivera said.


FAN-TASTIC: With Wednesday evening's turnout for practice, the Panthers have already exceeded their attendance total for the entire 2010 training camp, with five practice days still to go.

The team has drawn more than 26,000 fans to Wofford College this year according to the Spartanburg Convention & Visitors Bureau, even with two-a-day practices now a thing of the past.

Attendance was up last year as well, enjoying a 37.7-percent increase from 2009.

The Panthers will return to the practice field Thursday at 6 p.m. Camp closes next Wednesday, so fans now have less than a week left to check out the team in Spartanburg.


SEEKING HIS SPOT: Rookie Keahola Pilares can see that the Panthers' situation at wide receiver beyond Steve Smith could provide him with a chance to play, but Pilares doesn't plan to stop there.

"In this league, you just try to get on the field any way possible," Pilares said. "I'm trying to learn as many positions as I can to be ready at any time, just be ready when my name is called."

Pilares certainly has a good base for his plan of attack. The fourth-round pick out from the University of Hawaii was one of the team's most productive running backs as a freshman and sophomore before becoming a prolific wide receiver as a junior and senior.

And Pilares, who caught 88 passes for 1,306 yards and 15 touchdowns last season alone, also returned kicks and punts for the Warriors.

He did it all with the benefit of 4.4 speed.

"Catching the ball and making plays after that – that's a strength of my game," Pilares said. "There is an opportunity to step in. I'm just trying to learn the playbook and see where it takes me."


SAFETY IN NUMBERS: Free safety Sherrod Martin, an NFL starter for the first time last season, likes the way the Panthers' safeties are working together.

"We're doing a good job of learning the new defense, communicating with each other and competing," Martin said. "We're also focusing on fundamentals."

Martin isn't alone in his assessment. Rivera said he likes what he's seen from the incumbent starters – Martin and Charles Godfrey – and he also has been impressed by second-year pro Jordan Pugh.

"We've got to find roles for all three of those guys," Rivera said. "To try and move guys around and experiment right now is not the right time, but we are very comfortable with those three guys. We think there is going to be some sort of rotation."

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