We have arrived at the month in 2017 where few things are appreciated more than a cold beverage, a solar eclipse or a big serving of Joe Webb.
August is not a lot of fun for players or fans in the NFL. It is mostly about anticipation and trying to slog through practices and exhibition games that are barely remembered by September unless something catastrophic happens.
But Webb does his best to make each August interesting for Panthers fans. It is usually the one chance he gets each year to play his given position – quarterback – as well as one of the many chances he gets to do everything else he does.
Webb, of course, is rightfully celebrated for playing special teams all the time as well as wide receiver in a pinch.
“If I’m on the field, I’m good, no matter what I’m playing,” Webb said during this Panthers’ training camp at Wofford College. “I could be the long snapper – which I was in high school by the way.” Webb then jokingly reconsidered, saying he would let J.J. Jansen keep that job because long snappers get hit a lot harder in the NFL than they do in high school.
Catching passes from country-music star
Webb also played quarterback, safety and wide receiver in high school, and he was versatile in college, too, at Alabama-Birmingham. He may have been only the second-most versatile players on those teams, too. A guy named Sam Hunt played some quarterback for UAB at the same time, and then he went off and became a country music star with hits like “Body Like a Back Road.”
“When Sam Hunt was the quarterback, I played receiver,” Webb said. “He was out here (at training camp) by the way, last week (to support Webb). ... That’s my guy.”
Webb’s teammates are difficult to impress with pure athleticism – this, after all, is a team that includes Cam Newton and Julius Peppers – but they do admire Webb’s versatility.
Said Panthers backup tight end Ed Dickson, who contributes on special teams himself: “You don’t see quarterbacks out there playing special teams. But Joe Webb ... he’s made a living playing special teams. He’s still making a living playing special teams. And it’s not like he’s out there getting by. He makes a whole lot of plays.”
Some NFL teams only keep two quarterbacks. But Webb has basically forced the Panthers to keep three quarterbacks the past three years with his versatility and likely will do so again.
“Joe’s having a solid camp,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “He’s always productive. He’s an exciting football player when he’s got the football in his hands.”
Joe Webb III comes to play
It is in August that Webb, 30, gets to actually have the ball in his hands. With Cam Newton likely to play little or not at all through much of the preseason as he nurses his sore throwing shoulder, Webb will get more snaps.
Carolina will be careful with backup quarterback Derek Anderson, too, and likely will bring him out as soon as the first-team offensive line comes out, if not before. That will leave Webb scrambling and gambling in and out of the pocket for large chunks of August, especially in the first and fourth preseason games.
That part won’t be different, although the name on the back of the jersey will be. Webb still wears No. 14 but has changed his name on the jersey to “Webb III.”
“I’ve been (Joe Webb) the third my whole life,” Webb said. “My dad is Joe Webb Jr. When I got into the league there was a big thing about RG3 (Robert Griffin III) so I didn’t want to (do it then). … Then I had my little son, Joe Webb IV, so I felt it was a good time to put it back there.”
By whatever name, though, this is Webb’s month to work. “A lot of miles is what it is,” Webb said, smiling. “I go from two special-teams periods to quarterback and to receiver when I get a chance to get into those drills. I practice non-stop basically.”
Webb even brings some of it on himself. The other day, when fourth-string quarterback Garrett Gilbert threw an interception in practice and the defensive back who caught the ball started speeding off toward the end zone, Webb dropped what he was doing and gave chase.
He didn’t win the race to the end zone. But, as always, he was trying.