Carolina Panthers

Biddle a speed demon, he says

Taye Biddle has impressed with his early ability.
Taye Biddle has impressed with his early ability.

SPARTANBURG -- All week long, the debate raged.

A few days ago, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Taye Biddle put a match to the fuse by saying, "I'm really not sure of my true time, but I'm fast enough that other guys won't race me ... they won't even challenge me."

You could see where this was headed.

The team's other resident speedster, receiver Drew Carter, got wide-eyed and laughed when told of Biddle's boast, and has hung onto the point for several days.

"Me and Taye raced yesterday," Carter joked as he stretched before practice Wednesday. "It's official. It's a tie. We both ran 4.83s."

That the Panthers have two such track stars is to their benefit, and that both of them are growing into actual football players is better still. Carter made the transition, and Biddle's showing signs of making the next (fast) step.

Biddle had two catches for 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns in last week's win at the N.Y. Giants, although neither catch was particularly complicated. He was wide-open on the first when a corner blitzed, and he out-ran an overmatched defensive back on the second, going 85 yards for the score.

"That guy's an incredible talent," said quarterback David Carr, who threw the first and witnessed the second. "He's got so much speed. You saw that one with Brett (Basanez). He just ran right by the defense. I mean, it wasn't even fair."

Biddle said he once ran a 40-yard dash in less than 4.1 seconds. That's almost physically impossible, and was the result of either a generous finger on the stopwatch or a gale-force wind behind him.

"I don't know what was behind me," Biddle said with a laugh. "It was a while ago."

Carter's known how fast Biddle was for years, although he didn't put it together until last year. Carter said he remembered seeing Biddle run when Ole Miss came to a regional track meet. What he saw that day squared with what he's seen since.

"I wouldn't doubt it, because I have seen him run by a lot of DBs," Carter said. "We were in the same track meet at Ohio State, but I didn't know who he was.

"I was doing the long jump ... saw him run guys down. We talked about it, and he was there that day. I was like, 'OK, that's the same guy.'"

The biggest thing for Biddle is he's not the same guy he was a year ago.

The Panthers took a flier on him after the draft, largely because of the 4.28-second 40 he ran at his workout. He wasn't invited to the draft combine, partially because his spindly 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame looks ready to snap in a stiff wind, but also because he only caught 90 passes in four seasons.

"I had little stats," he said.

Not to mention ankles that look like cue sticks.

But after catching the Panthers' eyes with his speed last year, they kept him on the practice squad, where he learned to be a receiver. Working under veteran coach Richard Williamson and alongside Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson proved valuable, and he earned a late call-up.

The time was more valuable to him than the three catches for 37 yards were to them, and Biddle said it gave him more confidence.

"I got an opportunity to play with two of the best receivers in the game last year, and the other guys on the team are also good," Biddle said. "I picked up a lot of things that helped me with my transition from college to the pros. It also helped me be more confident this year and relaxed and really know what's going on, knowing what to do."

Carter had to go through the same growing pains and said the time has helped round out Biddle's game, if not his frame.

"When you come in, you think he's a fast guy and people might think that's the only attribute," Carter said. "So you have to prove there are other things you can do, your toughness, catching the ball and knowing the entire game.

"I was in the same position. Years of just growing in the offense give you more time to learn new things."

He's also learned a little about politics, since he was quick to back away from the impression he was calling out the guys who happened to be a hundredth of a second or two slower than him.

The offseason timing sessions on which the pecking order's based are on the casual side. It's hard to imagine Steve Smith pushing himself to the fullest to win a mythical crown, so for now Biddle's assertions stand as the bulk of the evidence.

The bottom line is he's fast, and that's giving him a chance to stick.

"I'm always going to run to be the fastest and try to beat everybody I run against," Biddle said with a grin. "So if I was to race, I would do my best to win."

NEXT PRESEASON GAME

Who: Panthers (1-0) at Philadelphia (0-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

TV: FOX (cable channel 11 in Rock Hill)

• Radio: WBT (1110 AM)

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