If the Carolina Panthers are interested in seven-time All-Pro cornerback Charles Woodson, coach Ron Rivera isn’t showing the team’s hand.
An ESPN report this week stated the Panthers are one of three teams that have inquired about the free agent Woodson, the 2009 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year.
But speaking from Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, where he and 10 Panthers players took batting practice Wednesday night, the third-year coach declined to get into any specifics regarding Carolina as a potential landing spot for Woodson.
“That’s way ahead of the curve,” Rivera said. “That falls back on our discussions and we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re still going through the whole process of it and we’re still evaluating.”
Woodson was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler as recently as 2011 with the Green Bay Packers but was released in February after a collarbone injury hampered him throughout the 2012 season.
ESPN reported Woodson was to meet with Denver on Wednesday, had an offer from Oakland—his former team—and the Panthers had made a call about him.
After the release and subsequent retirement of Chris Gamble, Carolina was left without a clear No. 1 cornerback for the 2013 season. The Panthers added cornerbacks D.J. Moore and Drayton Florence while picking up safety Mike Mitchell in free agency. And safety Haruki Nakamura said he welcomed the new players to the secondary.
“That’s what we need. We left a lot of plays out there (last year),” Nakamura said. “The thing we’re doing this year, last year we were trying to be as sound as we could and sometimes we were robotic. This year coach was preaching just make plays. Know what your assignments are, use technique, but at the same time go get the ball.
“I don’t want to say it frees you up a bit, but you’re able to play with less thinking and more reaction and instinct. I think that’s going to help us. We have some really instinctual players and it’ll do nothing but help us.”
Nakamura’s most infamous play from his first season with the Panthers came in Week 4 against the Falcons. He allowed Roddy White to slip behind him and catch a 59-yard pass from Matt Ryan from the 1-yard line in the final minute to jump-start an Atlanta comeback.
The Panthers allowed 223 passing yards per game, 13th in the league, but had just 11 interceptions (tied for 23rd in the league) and allowed completion percentage of 66.8 (last in the NFL).
“With a young group you’re just trying to do everything right. We were trying so hard to be on the same page, we tilted our hand to offenses,” Nakamura said. “You see as the year progressed we got better and better, but that’s what happens with teams. When you have a young football team you’re going to have growing pains.”
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