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Panthers put faith in Gamble

Chris Gamble was asked a couple of times Wednesday who he thought the Packers' No. 1 receiver is.

The fact that Gamble is the Panthers' unquestioned No. 1 cornerback shows how far the eight-year veteran has come in his short time with the new coaching staff.

Buried on the bench in the final days of John Fox, Gamble has been given a clean slate by Ron Rivera, who told him in their first meeting that he would be matched up with the opponent's top wideout each week.

"We wanted him to know we had all the confidence in him," Rivera said. "Based on the tape we'd seen, we were looking to establish him as a No. 1 corner. And he's responded very well."

In the Week 1 loss at Arizona, Gamble held Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald to three catches and 62 yards. Rivera estimated Gamble had 1-on-1 coverage on Fitzgerald on a third of the Cardinals' plays; Fitzgerald got behind Gamble once - for a 34-yard catch that helped change field position late in a game decided by 7 points.

"Chris is our guy. He's our starting corner, and he's the No. 1 corner on this team," said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, a longtime Philadelphia assistant. "I know being outside of this building for a number of years watching Chris, I always admired his play. He's got great ball skills, as good as I've seen. I think it's important that he gets on the right track, and (Sunday) was a step in the right direction."

McDermott would not say whether the Panthers plan to use him exclusively against the No. 1 receiver, or have him play a certain side of the field, as he had done throughout his career. Gamble, part of a national championship team at Ohio State, has not gone mano-a-mano with the other team's best wideout since he was with the Buckeyes.

"It feels good. ... It just brought back memories of being in college," Gamble said. "I'm just having fun out there, just trying to do my job and make sure that guy doesn't catch the ball."

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has his pick of proven receivers. Donald Driver has been to four Pro Bowls, is Green Bay's all-time receptions leader and is tied with James Lofton for most receiving yards in team history with 9,656.

Greg Jennings is a big-play threat, whose 38 touchdown catches since 2007 are second only to Fitzgerald's 41. And Jordy Nelson was one of Green Bay's Super Bowl heroes with nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown in the win over Pittsburgh.

"They like to throw the ball," Gamble said. "Aaron Rodgers is a good quarterback. He's like the new Peyton Manning. He's got a lot of weapons out there."

Pick your poison.

"I'd rather go on Jennings," Gamble said. "He's the big-play receiver, fast guy, good after the catch. Driver's physical. He's kind of getting up in age (36). But Jennings is the guy."

Gamble is grateful for the fresh start after the most disappointing season of his career. After Gamble was beaten for a 56-yard touchdown catch by T.J. Houshmandzadeh on Baltimore's second play in a November game in Charlotte last season, Fox pulled him from the game and he finished with one tackle.

Gamble skipped a practice the following week for what Fox called personal reasons. Gamble said he did have personal issues to attend to, but a teammate said Gamble was disciplined and apologized to the team.

He missed the final five games with hamstring and ankle injuries.

"I had a couple of bad games last year. But it's a new start for me," he said. "You've got to just stay positive. You're going to have your ups and downs. But the main thing is just stay positive. And that's what I've been doing."

Panthers corner Darius Butler, who grew up in the same south Florida community as Gamble, said the 6-1, 200-pound Gamble has the physical tools.

"He's long. He's athletic. He's fast. He's everything you look for on the outside," Butler said. "As long as he keeps putting it together, is physical and making plays, the sky's the limit."

Gamble, who has a cap figure of $9.2 million this year, needs one interception to tie Eric Davis as the Panthers' all-time leader with 25. Gamble has been stuck on 24 for 15 games - the longest interception drought of his career.

"It's been a minute. I'm trying to get that," Gamble said. "I tried to get one last week on that slant, but kind of came up short. I'm going to try to get one this week."

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