BRADENTON, Fla. Dwan Edwards is trying to remember when he flew to Charlotte to report to the Carolina Panthers. He says last Friday. Then he thinks about it and says Saturday.
You can’t blame him. The Buffalo Bills released Edwards Friday, Carolina signed him Tuesday and he will start for the Panthers at defensive tackle against Tampa Bay Sunday.
Get off an airplane and walk into the starting lineup.
“It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” says Edwards, 31. “But you make the best of it. You have to learn as fast as you can on the run and you give them everything you got.”
Have you had time to feel lost?
“I don’t want to say I feel lost but it definitely was a little overwhelming,” he says. “I pick up a playbook and think, ‘I’ve got a game this week’ – that definitely was a little intimidating. But my coaches have done a good job preparing me and getting me ready and showing me the stuff I need to know.”
Here’s what you should know about Edwards:
He is 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds. Seems like a nice guy. Our first interview was cut off after 91 seconds because he needed to hop on a small bus with the other defensive linemen and lift weights. He was nice enough to call later.
Edwards grew up in Billings, Mont., played at Oregon State and graduated with a degree in business administration.
The Baltimore Ravens selected him in the second round of the 2004 draft. In his third season he became a starter.
Buffalo signed him in 2010 and he started 11 games. In 2011 he started 13.
The Bills switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 this season, and released Edwards, which saved them a $4.3 million cap hit.
What would you like Panthers fans to know about you?
“Man, I’m just a hard-working guy,” says Edwards. “I’m a blue collar guy, been like that everywhere I’ve been. I look at the team we’ve got here, hopefully some of my professionalism will rub off on some of the young guys. I’ll just give them whatever I know and whatever I learned along the way.”
Perhaps their grasp of the terminology will rub off on Edwards. NFL playbooks can vary so greatly it’s as if they’re written in different languages.
Edwards spends as much time with his Panthers playbook as some people do a cell phone.
“I guess he’s one of the seasoned vets,” says rookie defensive end Frank Alexander. “He can pick up on anything quick.”
Good thing about being a seasoned vet: You don’t have to go through training camp.
“He went through it,” says general manager Marty Hurney. “He just didn’t go through it with us.”
Maybe it comes down to this: You can play or you can’t. If Carolina had not hired Edwards somebody would have.
What will his role be?
“Dwan’s going to start for us,” says Panthers coach Ron Rivera. “I think what he does is he’s a big physical stout player who gets into the crease and just pushes.”
Adds Rivera, a former Chicago Bears linebacker: “I don’t want to put any of the defensive guys down. But defensive line is probably the easiest position to learn and get yourself ready to go. I know the defensive line is going to hate me for this. But I really do believe it.”
After spending a few nights in Charlotte, Edwards flew with the team to Bradenton, Fla., where the Panthers are preparing for the Buccaneers.
In the last week Edwards has lost one job and found another, flown from Buffalo to Charlotte to Bradenton, and this weekend will get on a bus with his teammates and ride an hour to the team’s new hotel in Tampa.
Have you had time to learn anything about Charlotte?
Edwards has. Every time he left his downtown hotel this week he encountered a large number of police officers.