Carolina Panthers

Anderson carving his own niche

SPARTANBURG -- When the Carolina Panthers drafted James Anderson in the third round last year, they weren't sure which outside linebacker spot to put him in.

They still aren't positive, although circumstances have dictated his latest move.

Originally envisioned as a weakside contributor with an outside chance to replace Will Witherspoon, Anderson wasn't able to get that job from Na'il Diggs. He moved to the strong side to back up Thomas Davis last season, and played well late in the season when Davis was hurt.

Now he's back on the weakside, working as the starter since Diggs (hamstring) is hurt and projected backup Jon Beason remains a holdout. Anderson said the experience will help him in the long run, as he'll have a better grasp on the entire defense from playing two of the three linebacker slots.

"I think the toughest part is trying to figure out what exact position you are this series and what you're going to be doing the next series and understanding that some calls the two linebackers do totally different things," Anderson said.

"It's more of a mental grind. When you're tied into one position you've got confidence, you understand what you're doing. When you're playing more than one you've got to kind of wade through and figure out what you have to do at both positions."

The bright side for the Panthers is they viewed Anderson as smart enough to play both.

"We're fortunate we have a guy like James who can pick up the other positions," defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac said. "We're fortunate in that regard, but it does force you to make sure you have your back covered in case something would happen.

"We put him at sam (strongside) this year because with Na'il and Jon, we didn't want to bury him. But he's an outside linebacker and he's bright, so we gave him a shot."

• INJURY UPDATE: The Panthers continued to get thinner at their thinnest positions when starting strong safety Nate Salley left the morning practice after landing awkwardly on his right knee.

He didn't come out for the afternoon session, but the team said his condition was day-to-day.

Without him, the Panthers had just four safeties available for the afternoon practice, since veteran Mike Minter had another rest.

This came after they lost another linebacker in the morning, as backup Brandon Jamison (hamstring) was held out, along with cornerback Derrick Strait (hamstring).

Left tackle Travelle Wharton and defensive end Mike Rucker took the morning off as they continue to ease back from knee problems last year.

• DIPPING A TOE IN THE POOL: The Panthers went through their longest period of live action work in the morning, and linebacker Dan Morgan took part briefly.

They're trying to limit his contact because of problems with concussions, but the team acknowledges its a fine line since they want him to be ready for the regular season.

"Like I said before, we're taking it one practice at a time and we're trying to be as cautious as possible," Panthers coach John Fox said. "But let's not forget, we are playing a very physical game."

• EXTRA POINTS: After the war of words in the Beason negotiations waged Monday, there seemed to be a bit of a thaw.

Sources with knowledge of the situation said there's a chance things start happening soon. With Beason's holdout hitting its fifth day and the other linebackers dropping fast, they could use him in camp if he's to play a big role anytime soon. ... Usually when the Panthers bring an extra kicker to camp, they try to find a left-footed one like John Kasay so they don't uproot their whole practice operation. However, this year's candidate, Andrew Wellock, is right-footed, which makes holder Jason Baker work from the other side.

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