Panthers general manager Marty Hurney fielded questions from the local media prior to the start of Monday's practice. Below is the transcript of the Q&A session.
On tough cuts: “I mean, they are all hard. Torrey in particular, he’s just such a class act. He brought to our room what we thought when we got him a year ago, but we had a chance to get a couple guys that could help us at special teams as well as receiver. … When you get down to those fifth and sixth receiver spots, you want to try to get guys who can be four core special teamers or returners; somebody that can help you in those areas because they are not going to get on the field as a receiver much. That was the biggest reason we did it.”
On the kicking situation: “For one, Joey Slye came in and has been great. Going into the final preseason game there were 14 teams that hadn’t missed a field goal and we were one of them. With Graham’s situation, it was a case where he had soreness in the plant leg from early on. He thought he was going to be able to get over the hump but every time he went to kick there was still soreness there. Even when he did (kick) it was sore the day after. It just got to the point where we had to put him on injured reserve, and the thing is just to get him healthy and figure out what’s best for that leg.”
On not putting Gano on the initial 53: “It just came down to numbers and you don’t want to risk guys. Not only do you have to put him on the final roster but you have to get through 4 o’clock Sunday. So we just made the decision. And Joey has been kicking well. We thought this was best not to push Graham and figure out what is best for him to get the leg better.”
On offensive tackle depth: “I think we have guys who can swing and play a lot of positions. With Daryl and Taylor and Greg and then Dennis Daley can play there and Brandon Greene … We feel good about the tackle position. You look at teams across the league and I think there are a lot of people looking for interior offensive linemen. I think we’re OK if we stay healthy, but any team, if you get some injuries in there you are always going to be looking.”
On keeping undrafted rookie LB Jordan Kunaszyk: “Gosh, there are so many things about Jordan. He had a terrific preseason and training camp. He made plays. He’s a guy who studies all the time. He’s just going to get better and better. We just like we had a young linebacker who really has the skill set, has our DNA, has the approach down and we just didn’t want to risk putting him out there. I think he would have been a guy teams would have found attractive. He’s just going to get better and better, and he gives us good depth. He’s going to get better at special teams. That was one of those decisions we went back and forth with, and I think at the end of the day we made the right one.”
On RBs Jordan Scarlett and Reggie Bonnafon: “They both have different skill sets. They are both going to be used in different ways. It would be unfair to say one is two, one is three. Obviously Reggie’s receiving skills are very good, but he’s gotten much better as a runner. He cut off 10 or 12 pounds in the offseason and he is a guy that you point to. Came in as a rookie free agent, worked hard, changes his body and has really become a factor for us at that position. Jordan is more of an inside type of runner but he can bounce it outside. He breaks a lot of tackles. You find a way to use both of them.”
On what he saw in the three waiver pickups the Panthers made Sunday: "You start with (defensive back) Natrell Jamerson, and he is a guy who we've liked for a while through the summer. He's a corner with size and good speed. He's got a good burst and explosion. Not only can he play corner, but he's played safety, and he's got position flexibility back there. He's played special teams. He can play gunner. He can play the vice. So he brings a real variety and talents to us, and I think he'll help us. Then (wide receiver) Brandon (Zylstra) is a guy who comes in, and he's the type of guy we're talking about as far as when you're looking at the fourth, fifth, sixth receivers. He's a four-phase special teams guy, brings you good size. He's a different body type than what we have. He's 6-2, 220. Catches the ball extremely well. Is more of a possession-type receiver, but he's got the quickness to separate and get open. I think he was a guy that I think (the Vikings) wanted to bring him back maybe if some things worked out roster-wise for them, but we just think he brings a different dimension, and the fact that he's a four-phase special teamer is very important. And then (wide receiver) Ray-Ray (McCloud), I go back to watching him at Clemson. He's got some pretty explosive return ability. Matter of fact, I was at a game at North Carolina State when he ran one back for a touchdown. I think he'll just get better and better. He brings us a different skillset at returner as far as the ability to have some big returns. He went (to Buffalo) last year, and I think he's grown. He can also play receiver, basically slot, but he can play receiver. Essentially, he's going to get a chance right off the bat to be our returner."
On McCloud compared to other options on the roster: "As far as a punt returner, he's got some explosive ability. You don't want too much because I haven't even seen him at practice yet. I've seen him in games, but he certainly has that ability to change the field. We were very pleased to get him."
On who will get the first shot at kick returner: "We'll see. I can't answer that question right now. We'll see how it goes."
On Cam Newton's status: "As far as I know, he's recovering, and he's going to be ready to go."
On who put Bonnafon on the Panthers' radar: "(Executive Director of Player Personnel) Jeff Morrow. He basically said, 'This guy's a jack of all trades. He's played quarterback; he's played wide receiver, he's played running back, he can be a special teamer for you.' He was relentless with the guy, and Reggie has come in and worked hard from Day 1, improved himself and become very valuable."
On keeping three QBs on the active roster through the season: "That's been the plan all along. Listen, we want to develop young quarterbacks. I think we feel good about Kyle (Allen), we feel good about Will (Grier), and I think that's not anything we've even debated. We've had that mindset all along."
On releasing Taylor Heinicke: "The decision really was who do you keep at two? I think you want to give Will some time. I think Will's going to be very, very good. But the jump your rookie year takes time. People don't understand, especially coming from college's offenses to the pros. He's shown a lot to us that we think he's going to be a very good quarterback, but I think we made the decision to keep Kyle Allen as our second."
On Javien Elliott emerging at nickel back: "He played that for Tampa last year, and I think when they released him, I'm assuming they were just looking for a bigger nickel. He's got the quickness; he's got the instincts. There's a nack whether it's slot receiver, whether it's nickel corner, there's a nack to playing inside, and he's got that. Since he came in here, he's shown that ability. He's shown that physical skillset, the quickness, and he's had that feel inside. There was a competition there, and he won it."