CHARLOTTE -- Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney knew the question was coming, and he knows it's coming many more times over the next few months.
Any time a decent, name-recognized safety like former Jacksonville star Donovin Darius is released, the Panthers are immediately going to be linked to the speculation concerning their new home.
Of course, the Panthers may not be as interested in an aging, aching, in-the-box safety as many would think.
"I can understand where it comes from," Hurney said with a laugh. "We're always looking to make our team better, but safety's not any different than any other position on the field.
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"We've got some guys we like. It's probably not as big a deal inside the building as it is outside."
The questions are coming because the Panthers are thinner at the spot than they've been in a few years, and they've never exactly been overstocked with all-stars anyway.
They've got 33-year-old Mike Minter in his farewell tour, a guy who didn't make the team out of training camp last year (Nate Salley) as the other starter and journeyman Deke Cooper as the third. After that, the highlight is a seventh-round pick who played corner in college.
But like Hurney, Minter said there's no reason for alarm just because most folks weren't familiar with the others.
"I tutored Nate all last year, so I knew what he's about," Minter said. "I knew what he could do, I knew what he can't do, so I feel good with him. If we line up right now and play a game, I feel good. At the end of the day, I feel like he can play."
• LUCKY MONTGOMERY: Panthers reserve offensive lineman Will Montgomery was involved in an early Saturday morning accident near the Virginia Tech campus, but escaped serious harm.
The second year blocker, last year's seventh-round pick from VT, was part of a group of people hurt when a drunk driver left the road and ran into a restaurant. The incident happened just after 2 a.m. in front of Big Al's Grille & Sports Bar. A 20-year-old woman registered a 0.20 blood alcohol reading, more than twice Virginia's legal limit (0.08), and was charged with driving under the influence. She told officers at the scene she was sending a text message when she lost control of her vehicle.
Panthers officials said Saturday that Montgomery was fine, and that his trip to a nearby hospital was for "precautionary reasons."
• EUROPEAN VACATION: The Panthers have at least one promising prospect overseas, though their overall crop in NFL Europa wasn't remarkable.
Cologne defensive end Jason Hall was their star this year, leading the league with 11 sacks.
Wide receiver Justin McCullum was playing without great distinction (11 catches, 161 yards, one touchdown in nine weeks) before catching a game-winning touchdown in Amsterdam's finale. Cornerback Kevin Garrett finished the year on injured reserve, but he was back here for the final day of summer school last Thursday and should be fine for the start of training camp.
• EXTRA POINTS: The Panthers still have seven roster moves to make, one player to cut for each of their unsigned draft picks. Team officials said last week they'd likely wait to make such move until they had to, and that part of their rationale was to see who they signed (more importantly, at which position) from NFL Europa. That could determine the fate of the fringe players at each position now. ...
Backup offensive lineman D'Anthony Batiste has been released from the hospital and is recovering from an infection which cost him the last week of summer school. Assuming he's physically the same guy he was at the beginning of June, Batiste is looking like a guy who's cemented a roster spot. The team likes his explosives, and since he got a lot of work at both the tackle and guard positions this summer only makes him more valuable to them.