SPARTANBURG, S.C. – As Taylor Moton walked off the practice field, he no doubt was struck by the fact that teammate and close friend Daryl Williams had taken that same path to the locker room before practice ended – aboard a cart.
"I'm going to go visit him right now and see how he's doing," Moton said of Williams, the Panthers' All-Pro right tackle who was audibly in pain when he suffered what appeared to be a right knee injury during Saturday's practice.
"First and foremost, Daryl is one of my best friends on the team. The first thing I did was I got on a knee and prayed for his health. But I know the game keeps on going, and right now I'm the next man up. I'm going to do everything I can to prepare and help this team win. It's an opportunity, and I'll do everything I can to make the most of it, but I'll be keeping Daryl in my prayers, too."
There is hope that Williams' injury isn't as bad as it sounded, but even if the news isn't good, there is hope for the Panthers thanks in large part to Moton. Carolina's second-round draft choice a year ago is confident that he'll be up to filling Williams' sizable shoes if need be – in part because of Williams' influence.
"I feel like I'm prepared," Moton said. "The coaches do a good job of preparing me, and watching Daryl and watching all the starters has prepared me for wherever I might need to be, whatever may come.
"I do feel a lot more experienced. The game is slowing down for me. I'm feeling really confident right now."
Moton played in every game as a rookie but primarily on special teams. He averaged about four snaps a game on offense, many of the snaps coming as a sixth offensive linemen on the right side in short-yardage situations.
Moton started three seasons at right tackle at Western Michigan and one season at right guard. He was the Panthers' primary backup at both tackle spots as a rookie and has been considered a candidate to take over the left guard spot opened up by the departure of Andrew Norwell via free agency to the Giants.
"Wherever Coach decides to put me, I'm going to give 100 percent effort," Moton said. "I'll give it my all, use the right technique. It doesn't matter where they put me; if it's right tackle right now, so be it.
"I feel comfortable, and I feel very confident. My mindset is, 'Wherever they put me, that's my best position.' If it's right tackle, then that's my best position."
Head coach Ron Rivera thinks Moton is in position to succeed.
"He'll take advantage of it, I believe," Rivera said. "He's worked very hard. He spent the spring and summer here getting ready for training camp. Hopefully he'll be able to pick up the slack.
"And who knows? We'll keep our fingers crossed and keep prayers going for Daryl."