SPARTANBURG When Captain Munnerlyn looks across the field at the Carolina Panthers’ other first-team cornerback, he sees a guy who reminds him of the last player to hold that spot.
Drayton Florence, acquired as an unrestricted free agent in March, is listed at 6-feet and 200 pounds – roughly the same build as Chris Gamble, the 6-1, 205-pounder who was released and later retired during the offseason.
Florence, 32, is two years older than Gamble – a fact Munnerlyn is happy to point out to him.
“I always mess with him a little bit, ‘You’re an old man.’ I used to say that to Gamble,” Munnerlyn said recently. “But they’re smart and they know what they’re doing out there. They’ve been around the game for a long time.”
Florence, entering his 11th season with his fifth team, has been around long enough that he remembers when training camps were tough. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, teams are limited to one padded practice a day.
“Coming from the old CBA, having real two-a-days and real training camp, this is a lot easier now with the rule change. A lot less work on the body,” Florence said. “We’re getting a lot of things done in the classroom, and they’re taking care of us as far as the physical activities go.”
Florence, who spent last season with Detroit, said he drew interest from several teams. But his background with Panthers coach Ron Rivera – they were in San Diego together – and the Panthers’ strong finish in 2012 led him to sign with Carolina.
“I talked to a few teams. When you have a relationship or you have familiarity with someone as I did with coach Rivera, it makes that decision a little easier,” Florence said. “Just the way the defense finished last year, I thought it would be a good fit to try to get back into the playoffs.”
Big body: A day after being carted off the practice field due to dehydration, new offensive lineman Chris Scott received reps with the first team at right guard. Scott, who was listed at 6-4 and 360 pounds when he failed Buffalo’s conditioning test two weeks ago, also could play a role in the Panthers’ short-yardage and goal-line packages.
“A big body like that can have some success in those situations. But out here it’s about getting him conditioned more than anything else. And as he gets more and more conditioned, I think he’ll be more and more productive,” Rivera said.
“He’s got an opportunity. He’s a big, physical football player who’s got a good, initial pop. He is explosive, and he’s powerful. If we can just get him in shape and get him going, I think it can be beneficial to us.”
No place for dancing: With the three top running backs either injured or getting the day off, several young backs carried the ball Tuesday. Rookie Kenjon Barner had the first carries in team drills, while Tauren Poole and Armond Smith also saw action.
Rivera said there was too much dancing.
“One thing they have to get used to is not to dance as much, but to hit the hole and go, and take what they get. Especially when it’s early in the game, we’ll take 4 or 5 yards,” he said. “We’re not always looking for that 20-yarder. We’re looking for good yardage so next down you’re looking at, instead of second-and-10, now it’s second-and-4, a much more manageable situation.”
Starting tailback DeAngelo Williams was given the day off. Jonathan Stewart continues to recover from offseason ankle surgeries, while fullback Mike Tolbert missed his second day with a hamstring injury.
• Linebacker Thomas Davis, who has been bothered by a hamstring injury, passed his physical and participated in team drills for the first time. Davis made a nice break on a Cam Newton pass to the flat, but couldn’t come up with the interception. Rivera attributed it to “rusty hands.”
• Second-team cornerback Josh Norman intercepted a long Derek Anderson pass that was intended for Kealoha Pilares. Otherwise, the quarterbacks had a good day.
• Safety Ricardo Silva, signed last week after Detroit waived him, leveled Armond Smith on an outside run, then missed the tackle on Smith the next play.
• Linebacker Jon Beason still hasn’t practiced in Spartanburg. But he seemed to be moving well on his surgically repaired knee during agility drills with the trainers along the sideline. Rivera offered no timetable for his return.
• Former New York Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, who led the Panthers’ search for a GM, is in Spartanburg visiting Dave Gettleman, his friend and former colleague. Rivera said Accorsi likely would have “a few pointers” for the Panthers.
• Ex-South Carolina basketball coach Eddie Fogler, who was a player and assistant coach at UNC, attended practice as a guest of Panthers president Danny Morrison.
3 Questions with fullback Michael Zordich
Q: Why was it so important for you to stay at Penn State (following the Jerry Sandusky ordeal)?
We had a new coach, a coach I became very close with. We wanted him to succeed there. But we were also there for four or five years. We made relationships. We had five years to play the game together. We were all good friends. And you don’t want to see anything blow up your senior season like that. So you try to do anything you can just to keep it together. Plus, all the tradition there. The school’s stood for so much more than what recently has been thrown about. We wanted to assure the people of Penn State and the nation what kind of school this really was and what it was all about.
Q: Any moment from last season that will always stick in your mind?
There really isn’t one lasting image, really just a collaboration of – from the start of camp to the end of the season – specific moments in there that I’ll always remember because we realized what we were doing.
Q: Your dad had a long NFL career (as a defensive back with three teams over 12 years). Did you spend time at training camp as a kid?
My mother used to drive us down there and we used to go check him out every once in a while. Tried to stay out of his hair and let him do his thing. We’d be in the family section watching practice and in the tent with all the weight room and stuff. It was awesome. It was neat.
Getting to know …
S Colin Jones
NFL experience: Third season
The scoop: Jones, a special-teams player, was obtained by Carolina in 2012 in a trade with Oakland for the Panthers’ seventh-round pick in 2014. Jones finished third on the team with 11 special teams tackles last season, and added three tackles on defense. He stands a good chance of making the final roster as a four-phase special teams player.
Twitter handle: N/A
Bet you didn’t know: Jones, of Bridgeport, Texas, was a first-team, all-state selection as a senior and chose TCU over Baylor, Purdue and SMU.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less