Cameron Artis-Payne is looking to solidify his spot as the Carolina Panthers’ No. 2 running back, so he’s playing like his job is on the line.
That attitude showed Friday when the second-year player from Auburn ran for 28 yards on nine carries, both team highs, and caught a swing pass for 12 yards in a 19-17 exhibition loss to the New England Patriots.
Artis-Payne, 24, is the Panthers’ No. 2 running back behind Jonathan Stewart, but by next Saturday NFL teams have to trim their rosters from 90 to 53, the regular season limit. The first roster cut comes Tuesday afternoon, when teams have to cut their rosters to 75.
He wants to make sure his spot is secure.
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“That’s my mindset going into it honestly,” Artis-Payne said. “Just tried to have a good game and secure a spot on the team. That’s about it.”
Carolina’s offense, the No. 1 in scoring last season, looked miserable for most of the night against the Patriots, but Artis-Payne flashed. In one second-quarter Panthers possession, he had runs of 2, 5 and 6 yards and his lone 12-yard reception before the series ended with one of Cam Newton’s two interceptions.
Artis-Payne has made an impression on Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert.
“He’s a young stud,” Tolbert said. “He’s going to be ready to play ball. He’s going to be ready to take over at any time.”
Tolbert, who Artis-Payne said is his closest friend on the team, has guided him through the growing process.
“He’s taught me how to be a pro at all times.” Artis-Payne said. “Off the field, on the field. Just how to show up and be your best every day.”
Artis-Payne said he credits a year of experience in the league as the reason he’s improved his pass protection. Last season, Artis-Payne appeared in seven games, rushing 45 times for 183 yards.
“It’s my second year, and last year it was a lot of growing things as far as getting out of the field and not being fully comfortable,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m fully there, but I’m a lot better than I was last year.”
He said he’s optimistic about the team’s prospects against Denver for their first regular season game Sept. 8.
“We have to get back to the drawing board this week,” he said, “and we’ll be sharp when the first game of the year comes.”