Skip to main content
Carolina Panthers

Strickly Panthers: Roster push


CHARLOTTE - The visitors' locker room at Bank of America Stadium came alive for a rare time in the offseason this past weekend, housing 32 players invited to try out during the Panthers' rookie camp.

Monday, the only sign that the locker room had been used was a message on a dry erase board reminding the hopefuls to leave their team-issued practice garb behind.

But around the corridor in the home team locker room, things were buzzing Monday. All 74 lockers have tenants, including a couple that are being shared by two players. Just off the main room in a small alcove once used as a lounge, another dozen or so players have their lockers set up.

And upstairs in the Panthers' offices, the decision-makers are doing what they do. Their judgments may thrill a few fortunate souls that spent the weekend in the visiting locker room and may crush the souls of a few currently clinging to spots in the home locker room.

"If we think anybody will help us, we'll sign them," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. "But we have good players on our roster, so it's very difficult.

"It's a very competitive league with a lot of talented players out there. Our job is to just look at everybody we can and try to make the right decisions for our club."

Hurney's charge is to make sure that at all times, the Panthers' locker room is filled with the best 90 players that best fit what the team needs. That number was 80 until the NFL recently increased it, creating opportunities for more players like the ones that tried out but creating a mixed bag for the team.

"When you start talking about the very bottom (of the roster), it's harder and harder to find guys. That's why you do these types of camps," head coach Ron Rivera said. "The limit is up to 90 guys, and to be able to find 10 guys that will fit what you want, that's the hard part."
Hurney and Rivera both indicated that they may decide to keep a couple of tryout guys at the expense of a couple of guys already on the roster. It would be a nice first step for a tryout guy, but the stairway to heaven – a.k.a. a spot on the opening day roster – is still steep and long.

Take a look at the Panthers' current 90-man roster, and considering a combination of proven talent, draft-day investments and position needs, you could find yourself quickly approaching 50 players that appear likely to make the 53-man roster when it is set in September.

Between players under contract and the tryout guys, the Panthers had 122 players in the fold last weekend. So is it really a case of 70 or so players competing for less than a handful of spots?

Not exactly.

First off, eight players also will make up the practice squad heading into the season, a group that included seven players who went to training camp with the Panthers. Five of them eventually made it onto the active roster, including defensive end Thomas Keiser, who tied for second on the team with four sacks.

In addition, injuries are a harsh reality in the NFL, with roughly half of the league's players landing on the injury report in a given season. A team can never have too much quality depth.

And finally, if it doesn't work out for a given player with the Panthers, it might work out somewhere else. The opposite is true as well. The Panthers undoubtedly will end up with some players on their 53-man roster that aren't on there currently, players that impressed when given a chance elsewhere.

NFL rosters have always been fluid, and that's more the case now than ever with the move to 90. The Panthers locker room will continue to brim with excitement throughout the offseason, but the reality is that some of the faces will change along the way.

Related Content