Carolina Panthers

It took awhile, but Panthers rookie Jordan Scarlett is finally showing off

Rookie Jordan Scarlett lugs veterans’ gear

Running back Jordan Scarlett has no trouble with tending to veteran’s errands and lug their pads.
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Running back Jordan Scarlett has no trouble with tending to veteran’s errands and lug their pads.

Here’s the deal on Carolina Panthers rookie Jordan Scarlett: The label might be running back, but that falls short as his job description.

He’s also a special-teams guy … and a pass-catcher … and a student of time-management. As in make yourself as valuable as possible, because your job is not yet secure.

Scarlett was the Panthers’ fifth-round pick out of the Florida. He missed the first preseason game against the Chicago Bears with a back injury. Against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday, he did whatever he could to make up for that missed time, with eight carries for 35 yards and a 14-yard reception.

“For the limited snaps he got, he ran the ball really well, ran it really hard,” coach Ron Rivera said. “He played well on special teams, made one of the tackles.”

Scarlett’s first impression of an NFL game? He wasn’t caught off-guard by the speed, but long drives at NFL intensity did feel wearing.

Scarlett was solid with the Gators last season as a rusher, averaging nearly six yards per carry. The receiving, not so much, with just 10 catches last season and 15 total across three years of college ball. Scarlett says that’s deceiving, that Florida didn’t use running backs much in the passing game until the coaching change from Jim McElwain to Dan Mullen last season.

He might have a point; he looked reliable as a receiver at training camp in Spartanburg.

“All my (pre-draft) training was in South Florida, where I’m originally from. There were a lot of camps (with NFL prospects), so I used to head out with a lot of receiver guys,” Scarlett said. “I’d catch balls all day.”

Scarlett has a lot of competition; veteran Cameron Artis-Payne and Panthers newcomers Reggie Bonnafon and Elijah Holyfield are all trying to compete to be the backup to Christian McCaffrey — and all have more pro film at their disposal. Scarlett isn’t big at 5-foot-11, but he’s fast and physical enough at 201 pounds to be a logical complement to McCaffrey.

But the biggest surprise about his first month in the NFL hasn’t been the speed of the game — it’s actually all the free time, and what to do with it. There’s a lot of freedom suddenly, and he sought out advise on what to do with it.

“How they treat you like an adult, versus when you’re in college and they’re all up under you (with a loaded schedule) and watching your every move. Here, you’re in charge of what you do need to do, and to be on time. It’s all on you,” he said.

“Coming in talking to a lot of the veteran guys — not just running backs, but other guys as well — they say utilize your time in a good way as far as getting treatment. Just take care of your body because your body is your temple.

“Availability is the best thing in the NFL.”

Big day for Newton family

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton turned to the media during practice with what he said was a big story.

His son, Chosen, was off to his first day of Pre-K.

Sounded like Newton was facing a classic parenting dilemma: How do you balance work with not missing big moments in your children’s lives.

Still No Gano

While coach Ron Rivera continues to say he plans to play key veterans -- Newton, McCaffrey, linebacker Luke Kuechly and tight end Greg Olsen -- Thursday against the New England Patriots, placekicker Graham Gano won’t. Gano has a leg injury and the Panthers have been using free agent Joey Slye during the preseason in Gano’s place.

Rivera has said Gano’s job is secure while he heals. The team is being deliberate with Gano’s rehab.

“Everything we’re going to do with him is going to be built up next week,” Rivera said. “Expect him to start swinging the leg and kicking the ball. And just see how he is. Hopefully, he’s rested up and the soreness is gone.”