For much of the season, Louis Murphy has stayed after practice, catching extra passes from Cam Newton.
Lately, Murphy can be seen sitting beside Newton during games as the quarterback reviews pictures of the coverages.
Sunday, against the Atlanta Falcons, Murphy’s effort could pay off. Murphy could be the No. 2 wide receiver because of Brandon LaFell’s injury.
“He’s going to have to (be ready) if he’s called,” coach Ron Rivera said. “He had a couple of untimely drops during the season, but he’s made some very big plays.”
Murphy, a fourth-year player acquired in a trade with Oakland in the offseason, has four catches for 85 yards and a touchdown in the past three games. In the Panthers’ first nine games, he had 10 catches for 135 yards and no scores.
“One of the things he does present is a speed threat,” Rivera said. “I think if people want to roll towards Steve (Smith, the team’s leading receiver), I think with Murph’s ability to run, and we saw his ability to catch the deep ball, I think that can be a scary thing.”
CAM’S STRETCH: Second-year quarterback Cam Newton has been hot the past five games.
Newton has thrown for 1,232 yards with 58 percent accuracy, nine touchdowns and two interceptions in that stretch. But the Panthers are only 2-3 in those five games.
“It’s a lot of success on my part, but I don’t play this game for individual awards,” Newton said. “In order for us to win, all 11 guys have to succeed, not only myself or only a person doing their job. It’s a collective effort.”
Rivera said Newton has improved on his ability to go through his pass-target progressions on each snap.
“A lot of it has to do with his decision-making process,” Rivera said. “He’s learned not to try to force the ball in certain areas and certain situations. He’s taking more of what they’re giving him in terms of his second and third (reads).”
ARMANTI ON MOORE: Armanti Edwards, who quarterbacked Appalachian State to two national championships under coach Jerry Moore, said he was surprised at the timing of Moore’s dismissal this week.
“I’m surprised it ended the way it did,” Edwards said. “I just had a feeling he was going to retire in the coming years, but I didn’t think it would happen this fast.”
Though plans were in place for Moore to retire at the end of the 2012 season, Moore said he wanted to coach one more year, a request that was denied.
Edwards said it meant everything to him to play for Moore.
“You don’t (often) get those chances to learn from a great person outside of football,” he said. “He was a great coach. He won many Southern Conference (titles) and three national titles to back it up.”
INJURY UPDATE: Along with LaFell, five other Panthers did not participate in practice Wednesday.
Linebacker James Anderson (stiff back) was out. He was also poked in the eye against Kansas City, and Rivera said he could have been listed with an eye injury as well.
Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (wrist), safety Charles Godfrey (back), tight end Greg Olsen (back) and running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle) were also out.
TICKET UPDATE: Sunday’s game against Atlanta is officially sold out, although the Falcons have returned 296 tickets to the Panthers. Those tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
The Atlanta game is the Panthers’ 102nd consecutive sellout. Fewer than 2,000 tickets remain for the home finale, Dec. 23 against the Oakland Raiders.
PARKER GONE: Ron Parker, a practice squad player for the Panthers, was signed by the Seattle Seahawks. Parker spent time on the Panthers’ active roster after Chris Gamble went out with a shoulder injury. He moved back to the practice squad after Week 9. The Panthers have not announced a signing to fill Parker’s spot.
TOYS FOR TOTS: Fans are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to Sunday’s game to donate for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program. Representatives from the program will be stationed at each gate three hours prior to kickoff to collect items.