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2013 CAROLINA PANTHERS TRAINING CAMP | Spartanburg, S.C.

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Carolina Panthers’ Jordan Gross: ‘I’m only going to play here’

SPARTANBURG If Jordan Gross plays anywhere next season, it will be with the Panthers.

On the day he watched his longtime friend and teammate Geoff Hangartner get released, left tackle Gross said he has not decided whether this season will be his last.

If he returns in 2014, he said it would be in Carolina, where he has spent his entire career.

Gross, 33, the second-longest tenured player on the roster, agreed to a pay cut and a restructured contract in March that essentially works as a one-year deal. His contract automatically voids on the fifth day of the league year in 2014.

“If I wanted to move somewhere else, this last offseason was my opportunity to do that – if I would have put up a big fuss and got myself out of this organization,” Gross said Thursday. “A year later is another year less appealing to go somewhere else. I’m not worried about the team having leverage on me if I say I’m only playing here. … I’m only going to play here.”

Gross, beginning his 11th season, said he wasn’t concerned about his uncertain status for next season.

“I really don’t know,” he said. “It’s nice because I don’t have to worry about it. There’s a lot of good outcomes that can happen.”

Gross started all 16 games in 2012 and ran his club-record total to 151, five more than wide receiver Steve Smith’s total. Critics have suggested Gross has lost a step, but coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman said during the offseason he remains productive.

Gross, whose contract runs through 2017 for salary cap purposes, received a $4.5 million signing bonus, which offset a cut in base salary from $8.7 million to $1 million.

STAR RISING: Rookie defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was basically guaranteed a starting job when the Panthers picked him 14th overall in April’s NFL draft, and coming from the guy who goes up against him every practice, he already has NFL-starter talent.

“I feel like he’s the guy who can step up and start right away,” left guard Amini Silatolu said. “He’s strong. He’s a strong kid.”

Lotulelei has impressed coaches with his run-stopping abilities while using this camp to hone in on his pass-blocking techniques. He and Silatolu, a second-year starter, have been matched against each other in first-team reps every day.

“He’s getting better,” Silatolu said. “He’s working me really well in practice and I’m trying to do the best for him so we can get each other better.”

Gross said the competition going on to his right reminds him of his rookie season when he and then-second-year defensive end Julius Peppers did battle during practices.

CREEPING UP: This time last season, there were doubts Armanti Edwards would make the Panthers’ final cuts. Now, he’s getting first-team reps and is competing for the wide-open No. 3 receiver spot.

Edwards ran with Smith and Brandon LaFell on Thursday, following up Tuesday’s practice where he and LaFell ran with the first team.

Entering camp, the No. 3 receiver position, vacated after Louis Murphy went into free agency, seemed to be up for grabs between Domenik Hixon and Ted Ginn Jr. Edwards has quickly earned himself reps this training camp.

“The thing about it, you look at what those guys bring to the table and those guys all have different character traits,” Rivera said. “Armanti has the great quickness underneath. You see Ted Ginn with the vertical stretch and then Domenik is the big target.

“The biggest question a lot of people have is how he’s going to handle catching the ball in traffic. So far it’s been good. We’ll see how it goes when we start playing the preseason games.”

OBSERVATIONS

• Practice was delayed about 25 minutes because of lightning in the area. Rivera said the team used it as a halftime, and in the locker room the Panthers discussed how they wanted to pick up the energy in the “second half.”

• Quarterback Cam Newton didn’t have his best practice Tuesday, but after a day off he came out much sharper. In skeleton drills he completed four out of five passes and was not intercepted.

Garry Williams got the start at right guard on the first day without Geoff Hangartner. On the first play, DeAngelo Williams ran through Garry Williams and center Ryan Kalil for nearly 15 yards without being touched.

The team had referees at practice for the first time all camp.

• Edmund Kugbila, who is day-to-day with a hamstring strain, had a trainer move the exercise bike when the offensive linemen switched fields during a drill. Kugbila has been out all camp and has had to take mental reps.

• Linebacker Ben Jacobs tries to yank the ball out on seemingly every tackle attempt. There is a history there: While at Fresno State, Jacobs tied an NCAA single-game record with three forced fumbles against Louisiana Tech.

• Jon Beason saw the field for the first time all camp. During defensive installation period, Beason and Thomas Davis lined up on either side of Luke Kuechly with the first-team defense. Neither participated in team drills, though.

3 questions with QB Derek Anderson

Q: You went to the Pro Bowl in 2007; what do you think about the Pro Bowl changes?

It’s weird. I haven’t understood the whole thing. My understanding is they’re going to take the best six quarterbacks and draft them. I guess … to me it almost makes a little bit of a mockery of the game factor. But I understand what the league wants.

Q. Do you think it will make the game more competitive, since that’s been the biggest knock on it?

No. It increases fan interest because now they have involvement in the game, maybe a little more than they imagined. It’s kind of touchy because there are a lot of guys who went through a lot of stuff to get to that game and no one wants to get hurt. There’s a lot of mutual respect that goes on in that game where guys understand the tempo and speed.

Q. I know you’re a big golfer; what did you think of Phil Mickelson winning the British Open?

I thought it was cool. I play golf quite a bit with (Mickelson caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay). It was neat. He’s not my favorite golfer in the world, but I like watching him and obviously playing with Bones I’m always rooting for those guys.

Getting to know…

WR Brenton Bersin

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 210 pounds

College: Wofford

NFL experience: One year

The scoop: Bersin is back for his second Panthers training camp after getting cut last summer. A local guy, he has made some nice catches running with the third team, and with the lack of strong depth at wide receiver, it’s possible he latches on as a practice squad player.

Twitter handle: @bbersin10

Recent tweet: It is kids week on jeopardy and I still don’t do well

Complete Carolina Panthers coverage from The Charlotte Observer at CharlotteObserver.com/panthers
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