MOBILE, Ala. The Panthers met with former N.C. State and Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson this week and are exploring the possibility of adding a backup quarterback who would be a good fit in Rob Chudzinski's offense.
Cam Newton broke several records and earned a Pro Bowl berth as an alternate after taking nearly every snap as a rookie. Derek Anderson, Newton's backup in 2011, is an unrestricted free agent; Jimmy Clausen was inactive for every game last season after going 1-9 as a starter in 2010.
Anderson, who said he'd like to return to Carolina, has proven he can handle the passing portion of the scheme. He earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2007 with Cleveland when Chudzinski was the Browns' offensive coordinator.
But when Anderson saw his first action for the Panthers late in a win against Tampa Bay in Week 16, the offense looked a lot different with him under center. Besides the vertical throws, Chudzinski has added an option wrinkle to the attack to take advantage of Newton's skills.
"You have to look at it in those terms and say, 'How much does the offense change if (Newton) is in or if he's not in?' " Panthers coach Ron Rivera said at a Senior Bowl practice this week. "It's one of those things that you're going to discuss and talk about as we go forward."
Though not as prolific a runner as Newton in college, Wilson rushed for 1,421 career yards and 23 touchdowns, including nine during his final season with the Wolfpack.
Wilson said he had "good conversations" with the Panthers, and is confident he could quickly learn their system after adjusting on the fly last year at Wisconsin.
"They did a lot of different stuff," Wilson said of the Panthers. "They've got a lot of talent obviously on the offensive side of the ball. A lot of explosive players, including Cam. They're exciting."
Wilson, projected as a fifth- to sixth-round pick by most analysts, said he would not mind going to a team with an established quarterback.
"Every opportunity you get, no matter if you're the starter or the backup, you're always competing against another guy that's on your team," Wilson said. "But you're also competing against other quarterbacks across the NFL. And my goal is to be one of the great ones one day."
PANTHERS ADD ASSISTANT: Richard Rodgers, who played a big part in one of the most famous plays in college football history, has joined the Panthers as assistant special teams coach. Rodgers will work with special teams coordinator Brian Murphy to try to improve a unit that was at or near the bottom of several special teams categories in 2011.
Rodgers, who spent the past seven years at Holy Cross, was Rivera's teammate at Cal. As the Golden Bears' special teams captain, Rodgers called "The Play" in the huddle and touched the ball twice during the famous five-lateral kickoff return Cal used to beat Stanford in 1982.
The Panthers were last in net punting and allowed three returns for touchdowns.
Punt returner Armanti Edwards was last in the league.
MINOR PROBLEMS: Two of the quarterbacks in Mobile - Wilson and Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden - are former minor-league baseball players.
Wilson said he gave up baseball this year because he couldn't hit the curveball. Weeden's problem was he couldn't get his curveball past several future major-leaguers.