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Tackles defend their turf


CHARLOTTE – Andre Neblett understands why outsiders would be concerned about the Panthers' defensive tackle situation entering Sunday's opener at Arizona.

But Neblett, a second-year pro who qualifies as the veteran among the team's trio of tackles, is only concerned with what's going on inside the building.

"The coaches know what they're doing. They'll put us in the right places, and we just have to trust them and follow through with their plan," Neblett said. "We've got great players around us. As long as we do what we've got to do upfront, they'll make plays."

Neblett, the lone undrafted rookie to make the team last season, and rookies Sione Fua and Terrell McClain will man the middle against the Cardinals. If they need any relief, head coach Ron Rivera said that ends Greg Hardy, Charles Johnson and George Selvie could slide over to tackle, but Rivera isn't concerned about that possibility.

"We were only going to have seven guys (on the defensive line) active, and those are the three tackles that would be active," Rivera said. "I am concerned that they lack experience, but they're professional football players and I expect them to do their job."

Fua, a third-round pick from Stanford, believes the lack of NFL experience among the group won't be a problem.

"I feel like defense is very similar wherever you are," Fua said. "There are different terms and concepts, but the way you play is similar You've got to be physical and knock them back.

"There are nuances, but from Day One until now I definitely have a better grasp and I can play faster because of that."

Neblett, who returned to practice Wednesday following a concussion that kept him out of the last preseason game, said the tackle trio would be up to the task.

"With the tempo that Coach (Eric) Washington has brought from Day One, we'll be fine," Neblett said. "He keeps us on our toes and ready to go."


NEW BEGINNING FOR END: Rivera said that Selvie, claimed off waivers from the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, could even play the nose if needed, but obviously that's not why the Panthers brought him in.

"He's more in the mold of a Charles Johnson," Rivera said. "He's a little more stout, a little taller and long-armed, different than Eric Norwood. We have four guys at that position with different qualities."

Selvie, a seventh-round pick of the Rams in 2010 out of South Florida, played with McClain in college and is the only two-time All-American in school history. He had 19 tackles and 1.5 sacks for the Rams as a rookie.

"At South Florida, we wreaked some havoc," said Selvie, who hopes for more of the same with the Panthers. "This is a fresh start, a new opportunity. I'm just going to roll with it, just going to go out there and do my best and try to help my team win."

PIGGY BACK: When offensive lineman Geoff Hangartner first walked into the Buffalo locker room following four seasons with the Panthers, he was known as "Geoff."

When he returned to Carolina on Monday following two years with the Bills, "Piggy" was back.

"A few people had heard about it in Buffalo, but not like here," said Hangartner, who is expected to start at right guard Sunday. "In this building, it stuck."

That's because it started in this building. In 2005, when Hangartner was a rookie, then Panthers center Jeff Mitchell coined the nickname.

"He said when I was running around that it looked like I was trying to root-hog somebody. Then that became, 'Look at the little piggy run,' " Hangartner said. "I tried to ignore it and hoped it would go away. Here were are, seven years later."

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