|National Football League|
Panthers hope to find diamond in rough at minicamp
By STEVE REED
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Quarterback Jarrett Brown spent the past three days doing what he loves, dropping back and firing passes to wide receivers at the Carolina Panthers' rookie minicamp. It's an opportunity he or others like him wouldn't have had a year ago - at least not with the Panthers.
Because of the new collective bargaining agreement negotiated last year, veteran players aren't allowed to participate in rookie minicamps as in past years. As a result, the Panthers opted to bring in 32 players for a three-day tryout.
Players such as Brown arrived knowing they weren't going to get paid this week, yet they relish the opportunity to beat the odds and land a roster spot.
"I'd have paid them to have a chance to be here," said Brown, who had short stints on the practice squad with the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers since coming out of West Virginia as an undrafted free agent in 2010.
Rookie guard Will Blackwell from LSU went as far as to move his wedding date back a few weeks after receiving an invitation to the Panthers' tryout.
"I think the league has opened up more opportunities for guys like myself," Brown said. "I will gladly take that opportunity to come out here and show my skill set. I think it's a great thing. We all want opportunities."
Some players even went to attend multiple minicamps to get a look with different teams.
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney says it's still too early to know if any of the 32 players trying out will be signed.
The coaches will evaluate the tape and make decisions this coming week.
As Hurney points out, the team's roster already stands at the NFL limit of 90 players after signing their draft picks and undrafted free agents. That means if they want to sign one of the 32 players who tries out they'll have to cut someone else.
In most cases, this tryout helps the team form an "emergency list" of players they can sign later on if players on the roster get hurt. Normally, the Panthers worked out players in an informal setting in July, before the start of training camp.
Now they won't need to.
Some NFL teams have used the three-day tryouts in the past, but not the Panthers. They've always had the rookies and the veterans work together at a three-day minicamp the week after the draft.
"We've never done it, but it was necessary this year with the new CBA," Hurney said. "We couldn't have the veterans involved."
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said you never know when you're going to find a diamond in the rough.
While he was defensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears, they used a similar three-day tryout to sign undrafted free agent safety Brandon McGowan in 2005. He went on to have a decent career with the Bears and New England Patriots.
"Anytime you get an opportunity to evaluate people every now and again you will find one or two that belong," Rivera said.
Rivera wouldn't go as far as to say the Panthers found that diamond, but did say, "There were a few guys that flashed."
Brown is hoping he's one of them.
Either way, he said the tryout was priceless if only for the opportunity to get in front of NFL coaches again to show what he can do.
"I think it went pretty well," Brown said. "I was able to pick things up and learn each day and I gradually got better each day. And I think that's what coaches want from the players. So, you never know."
Updated May 13, 2012