Carolina Panthers

Panthers notebook: Byrd’s speed impossible to ignore

Tryout quarterbacks Chris Bonner and Cole Jaeschke were having a little trouble finding their targets Friday morning during the first session of the Carolina Panthers’ two-day, rookie minicamp.

But it would be tough for anyone to overthrow former South Carolina wide receiver Damiere Byrd on a deep route.

Byrd, one of 10 undrafted free agents signed by the Panthers, didn’t do much last season to attract the attention of scouts. He was the Gamecocks’ seventh-leading receiver with 20 catches for 308 yards and three touchdowns.

But Byrd, who is 5-foot-9 and 173 pounds, has speed that’s impossible to ignore. He ran the 40 in 4.28 seconds on a grass surface at South Carolina’s pro day.

So the Panthers know Byrd is fast. His goal this weekend and during organized team activities is to show them he’s more than that.

“I think I proved that somewhat to them for them to bring me in here,” Byrd said. “Now I just want to continue to build on that, continue to show them that I am a complete receiver and not just the stigma that every fast guy gets from the jump.”

Byrd, who’s from New Jersey, also ran track for the Gamecocks. But he had issues holding onto the ball at times in college.

That wasn’t apparent during Friday’s afternoon session, when Byrd made a one-handed snag over cornerback Corey Trim along the sideline.

Byrd is one of six receivers participating in the rookie minicamp, a group that includes second-round pick Devin Funchess. Byrd didn’t hesitate when asked if any of them could hang with him in a race.

“Definitely not, I don’t think so,” he said. “Growing up I always had that confidence as far as running.”

Artis-Payne under contract: The Panthers finalized the contract for fifth-round pick Cameron Artis-Payne on Friday, a four-year deal worth a projected $2.39 million.

Artis-Payne, a running back from Auburn, was the SEC’s leading rusher last season with 1,608 yards, the third-best rushing season in school history.

Artis-Payne’s deal leaves Funchess, the former Michigan wideout, as the only unsigned player among the Panthers’ five draft picks.

Keep it cold: East Carolina long snapper Charlie Coggins, who’s at minicamp as a tryout player, had a clever marketing idea to try to generate interest from NFL teams. Coggins did not participate at the combine, but he showed up in Indianapolis with purple beer koozies featuring his name, position, school, height and weight.

He left them in and around bars and hotels in Indy where scouts and coaches congregate.

Coggins told a reporter at ECU’s pro day that the Panthers’ Ron Rivera was the first coach to get a koozie.

That’s probably not what earned Coggins a tryout, but he gets points for creativity.

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