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Wide receivers preparing for final audition


CHARLOTTE -- Benjamin. Bersin. Brown. Byrd. Funchess. Garrett. Ginn. Norwood.

Eight wide receivers remain on the Panthers' sideline after Tuesday's cuts to meet the 75-man roster limit, but they aren't all likely to retain their spots when the roster is trimmed to 53 by Saturday.

One of those hoping to not only be on the field Thursday in the Panthers' final preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but also for the remainder of the season, is Damiere Byrd.

Byrd was an undrafted rookie free agent last year that spent his season on the Panthers' practice squad. He played at the University of South Carolina for four seasons, where he had 68 catches for 1,265 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The receiver showed the ability in college to make big plays, collecting nine passes for 40 or more yards, including a 94-yard touchdown for his first score as a Gamecock.

He caught everyone's eye with his performance in the Panthers' preseason opener, but it's the practice field where he's really shined.

"I think that I've done everything I've been asked to do, and some," Byrd said. "I think I have to continue to take advantage of opportunities, continue to take full advantage of my fundamentals, knowing exactly what I'm doing and being able to execute those."

Part of that success is due to the extra time he puts in. After the completion of every practice, he returns to the field to sharpen a few more of his skills. Before talking with the media Monday, he fielded kicks – catching all but the one he attempted one-handed – followed immediately after by performing various catching drills with assistant wide receivers coach Cameron Turner. No drops.

He intends to add to a receiving corps that averaged 12.9 yards per reception last season, third best in the NFL.

"I think that we've had a good training camp so far," Byrd said. "We've made the plays that we've needed to make, and it's been a great competition. It's been the story of training camp, just with so many bodies, so much talent loaded in our room. But it's a good room to be in, because it brings out your true competitor."

But that competition does have its end in sight. Three receivers were let go Sunday, and the roster will be further trimmed to 53 players by Saturday. Getting left on the outside looking in is a situation both Byrd and fellow receiver Kevin Norwood are well aware of.

"It gets thin," said Norwood, "but it just makes me work harder because you never know when it will be your time. I'm trying to make sure that doesn't happen to me again. That's not a great feeling to have, so I'm just going to continue to work hard."

Should they still be on the roster following Tuesday's cuts, Byrd and Norwood will have only one more game to impress general manager Dave Gettleman, head coach Ron Rivera and the rest of the coaching staff.  But Byrd said he's not treating the Pittsburgh game any different than any other football game he's played.

"I just need to go out there and continue to do what I've been doing," he said. "Not trying to overstretch anything, not trying to do too much. Let the plays come to me. When you do too much, that's when things go wrong."

View photos of practice from the fourth week of the preseason.

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