SPARTANBURG -- The hard part for Carolina Panthers wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett was not being able to play in the stadium of his childhood team last week. He gets to make up for it Friday by making his debut as close to his hometown as he can get.
Jarrett missed a week of training camp and last week's preseason opener against the N.Y. Giants because of a hamstring strain, but he appears ready to go again, and hopes to play in Philadelphia. He said a small contingent of family and friends were making the 40-minute trip from his hometown of New Brunswick, N.J., to the game, and the 20-year-old rookie couldn't mask his eagerness.
"I'm excited, I'm anxious," Jarrett said. "I was talking to my mom about it just the other day. They're looking forward to it. That's like my hometown up there, so it's going to be fun.
"It's definitely not just another game. That's why I think it's going to hit me when the game starts. That'll take a quick second to go through my mind, and I can just go out there and play ball."
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The week away from practice has slowed the development of the team's second-round pick. He had worked with the starters at points in June, but he's clearly behind veterans Keary Colbert and Drew Carter. That's not to say the Panthers don't have big plans for him, as his arrival prompted them to release Keyshawn Johnson after the draft.
Jarrett didn't catch 41 touchdowns in three years by accident, and the hope is he'll eventually provide the physical complement to Steve Smith that they hoped for with Johnson.
"He catches the ball extremely well," quarterback Jake Delhomme said. "That's one thing about it, he catches the ball effortless, he's a big target, he's still picking it up, picking up the offense. Certainly I think the hamstring hampered him a little bit, not being able to be out there at practice.
"But so far, so good, but I'm anxious to see him out there under the lights. It's a big difference when those lights come on, especially for a rookie."
Jarrett admitted being frustrated at not being able go for much of the last week, but said he's relieved after getting back to practice.
"After a while, you get tired of not getting dressed and getting out there and having fun with the fellas," Jarrett said. "I had to do what I had to do. It's better for me to sit out and get better than being out there with the fellas and making the injury worse.
"You just want to be out there so you can get better, every day. Every day counts."
• SALLEY BACK: After getting back on the practice field for individual work two days ago, projected starting safety Nate Salley was back working with his teammates. Although they were rotating them around, Salley took about half the first-team snaps alongside Chris Harris, while Deke Cooper got the rest.
Salley missed two weeks after landing awkwardly on his right knee and said he hoped the time away didn't set him back in his goal of starting. Fox has already said the plan was to play Salley and Harris together, but Salley's not taking anything for granted.
"I know Deke and Chris and myself are very good players, but I feel like I have a very good shot," Salley said. "I hope that all the things I did in minicamp and summer school and here before I got hurt didn't go down the drain.
"For the most part, all I can do is worry about my side of things, get healthy, continue to work at it and get better."
Fox said Salley learned much last year, even though he didn't play much defense.
"He was with us all of last year, so it's not real foreign to him as far as our defensive scheme," Fox said. "But again, I feel better all the time when guys are out here practicing. He's been in the meetings. He's been on top of it mentally. Now it's just physically getting him back out there and getting him ready to carry his pads to the level you've got to for the season opener. Right now we're just trying to get him caught up."
• EXTRA POINTS: There was a great cheer after the morning practice, as Fox canceled the afternoon session so the team could go to the movies. He said the combination of the heat and the work done so far was plenty of justification.
They'll have their short walk-through at 9:45 a.m. today, and next week's schedule is still up in the air. Last year, he called off all the Wofford practices after the second preseason game, and that possibility could exist this year. ... The Panthers are getting healthier by the day. Wide receiver Justin McCullum (hamstring) was the only player working on the sidelines, although fellow wideout Josh Davis (illness) stayed inside.