Beginning early Saturday morning, the first of nearly two dozen Panthers players will get the call to show up at Bank of America Stadium.
They’ll come in separately to meet with team officials, who will try to let them down easily when telling them they’ve been cut and to leave their playbook behind.
Coaches and front office personnel met most of Friday reviewing preseason game tapes and finalizing the 53-man roster, which must be set by 4 p.m. Saturday.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera anticipated making some difficult decisions among the 22 cuts, especially at running back, wide receiver and linebacker.
“There’s a whole group of guys that are playing really well,” Rivera said. “A big consideration will be what we do with the special teams as well.”
The Observer projects the Panthers’ opening-week roster, with changes from last week’s projection noted in bold:
Quarterbacks (3): Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Joe Webb
Comment: After locking up Newton in June, the Panthers added two years to Anderson’s deal Thursday. Webb’s special teams abilities get him a roster spot.
Running backs (5): Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne, Jordan Todman
Comment: Undrafted rookie Brandon Wegher ran well throughout the preseason. But there’s no room here unless the Panthers cut Whittaker or Todman instead.
Wide receivers (6): Jerricho Cotchery, Ted Ginn, Devin Funchess, Corey Brown, Brenton Bersin, Kevin Norwood
Comment: The Panthers love the upside of Norwood, who arrived this week via a trade with Seattle. Given Cotchery’s groin injury, the Panthers keep a sixth wideout.
Tight ends (4): Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson, Richie Brockel, Brandon Williams
Comment: Williams played a team-high 20 reps on special teams Thursday at Pittsburgh as coaches wanted to make sure his surgically-repaired groin was OK. Brockel’s shoulder injury could make him the odd man out.
Offensive linemen (8): Michael Oher, Andrew Norwell, Ryan Kalil, Trai Turner, Mike Remmers, Nate Chandler, Chris Scott, Daryl Williams.
Comment: Scott was a surprise release in the last round of cuts last year. This year he makes it over Amini Silatolu, the former second-round pick who had a rough night in Pittsburgh.
Defensive line (9): Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short, Mario Addison, Wes Horton, Kony Ealy, Colin Cole, Dwan Edwards, Kyle Love.
Comment: It’s looking less and less likely that Lotulelei, who has a stress reaction in his surgically repaired foot, will be available Week 1. But the Panthers will keep a four-man, interior rotation with Short, Cole, Edwards and Love.
Linebackers (6): Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Shaq Thompson, A.J. Klein, Jason Trusnik, David Mayo.
Comment: If special teams reps against the Steelers are any indication, Mayo gets the nod over Adarius Glanton. But this is a toss-up: The Panthers could try to bring Mayo back on the practice squad.
Secondary (9): Josh Norman, Charles Tillman, Roman Harper, Kurt Coleman, Tre Boston, Bene’ Benwikere, Colin Jones, Teddy Williams, Player TBD.
Comment: The Panthers likely need to hit the waiver wire to find another corner/nickel after injuries to starters Tillman and Norman (concussions), as well as Williams and Jones (groins). Benwikere showed last year he can play outside, but that would leave a gap at nickel if Jones can’t go.
Specialists (3): Graham Gano, Brad Nortman, J.J. Jansen
Comment: Gano led all kickers by going 10-for-10 on field goals in the preseason. Nortman had a punt blocked at Pittsburgh because of poor protection by players who won’t make the team.