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Training camp crucial to setting roster


When we are looking at roster spots, is there a set number for each position or is the depth of each position up to the coaching staff? – Marvin in Nebo, N.C.

That's a perfect question as training camp gets under way in earnest. Camp will go a long ways toward determining what things will look like when the 90-man roster is pared to 53 players about a week before the regular season opener.

There is not a set number at each position, but given the constraints that a 53-man roster puts on a team, there is definitely a realistic range. A typical roster of offensive players would be three quarterbacks; six wide receivers; a total of seven running backs and tight ends; and nine offensive linemen (25 players). On defense, nine defensive linemen, seven linebackers and nine defensive backs (25 players) is in range. And don't forget the kicker, punter and long snapper.

Realistically, wide receivers could range anywhere from five to seven. The defensive line will likely have at least four ends and four tackles, and the secondary at least four cornerbacks and four safeties. Especially in the secondary, at linebacker and wide receiver, players' ability to excel on special teams will play a key role in forming the bottom of the depth chart.

Battles for starting spots in the secondary and significant playing time at wide receiver will certainly be worth watching throughout Panthers training camp and beyond, but just as compelling will be the battle for the final roster spot at just about every position.

Can fans view the practices at training camp? – Mitch in Burlington, N.C.

Absolutely. Every practice at Wofford College is open to the public, with special events surrounding several of them. Training camp provides a great chance to enjoy a spot close to the action, and best of all it's free of charge to attend.

Along the same vein, Paul in Charlotte wrote to ask about the possibility of getting autographs at training camp. Though there are no guarantees, players do often stop after practice to sign autographs, although the number of players compared to the number of autograph seekers means that not everyone will head home with something signed. For maximum enjoyment, I'd suggest coming prepared to enjoy practice while considering an autograph a bonus.

Is it just me, or are more and more NFL teams staying close to home for training camp? – Levi in Tate City, Ga.

You are correct. While the Panthers have held training camp at Wofford since 1995, many of their fellow NFL teams have relocated. In 2000, 26 of 31 teams traveled to their training camp; this year, just 13 of 32 hit the road.

While some teams have decided that packing up and leaving home for camp isn't worth their while, the Panthers believe that convening in South Carolina is a good bonding experience for the team and a good opportunity for fans. They're not alone: the Green Bay Packers are at St. Norbert College for the 56th consecutive season, and the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers are away from home for the 48th consecutive season.

Hi Bryan, will fans be able to meet players and get autographs at Fan Fest? – Walt in Lenoir, N.C.

Players have signed autographs at times during Fan Fest, but pre-determined schedules and Mother Nature mean it may or may not happen. But much like training camp, Fan Fest at Bank of America Stadium is a fun time whether you end up with an autograph or not. Gates will open August 3 at 2 p.m., and admission is free.

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