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Panthers will stick to plan: fill roles, build in draft

Carolina Panthers general manager stepped to the podium, eyes red and looking like he hadn't slept in weeks.

Suffice it to say, his priorities are on this week's draft.

Among other things, Hurney said Tuesday the Panthers hadn't called the New York Giants about defensive end Osi Umenyiora or the Washington Redskins about quarterback Jason Campbell. Both reportedly are available in trades, with the Panthers' name routinely cropping up because of their needs at the positions.

"No, we haven't" talked to the Giants, Hurney said when asked about the Umenyiora speculation.

Of course, there's a difference between "haven't made" and "won't make," as Hurney has proven willing to listen to anything. At the moment, however, he seemed content to let the weekend play out, preferring to find his help in the draft.

It's a familiar refrain from the Panthers, who weren't involved in trade talks that saw high-end receivers such as Brandon Marshall or Anquan Boldin moved this offseason. Both got new contracts from new teams (more than $9million per year for Marshall, $7million per for Boldin). Coupled with the picks that were surrendered (two seconds for Marshall, a third and a fourth for Boldin), the prices were hefty for Miami and Baltimore.

The Panthers also have held off on any marquee free-agent signings, consistent with their approaches of recent years.

"It's funny because every year you do get an outcry to make moves in free agency," Hurney said. "But I think if you look at a lot of teams that have been successful you don't see them making a lot of moves. They go through the draft. They develop their players.

"We've tried to take a similar philosophy. Hopefully it provides us the consistency we're looking for and I think we've been successful in recent years as far as drafting well."

None of the Panthers signings this offseason have been household names, but they think they can get useful snaps out of defensive tackle Ed Johnson and special teams upgrades from Wallace Wright, Marcus Hudson, Aaron Francisco and return man Brian Witherspoon.

But for the most part, people looking for more incoming names will be disappointed, since the heart of the team is here.

"I think we have a core of good young football players that we think are going to be the nucleus of our football team and I think the focus is on them," Hurney said. "I think when we started this thing in '02, we were going to build through the draft and complement in other areas.

"I do think we've picked up some (free agents) who might not be big names but can come in and fill roles for us. But I think our philosophy all along has been to go through the draft and I think that we're counting on a lot of guys that we've drafted in recent years to step up and fill roles. We got a little taste of that at the end of the last year and we have confidence in those players."

RESTRICTED UPDATE : Hurney said defensive tackle Louis Leonard and linebacker James Anderson had signed one-year restricted free-agent tenders, and that cornerback C.J. Wilson would later in the day.

That would leave linebacker Thomas Davis and cornerback Richard Marshall unaccounted for. Davis has been at the stadium rehabilitating his knee, but Marshall has stayed away from the conditioning program.

Hurney said "I assume so," when asked if he expected the fourth-year corner to show, but added that he hadn't talked to Marshall or agent Drew Rosenhaus about it.

Next weekend's minicamp is mandatory, but that only applies if Marshall signs his $1.759 million tender.

NFL DRAFT

Round 1: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

Round 2-3: Friday, 6 p.m.

Round 4-7: Saturday, 10 a.m.

Coverage for all rounds can be seen live on ESPN and NFL Network. Check your local listings.

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