CHARLOTTE - The Panthers are taking a look at many options as they try to settle their offensive line.
But they're not prepared to make a dramatic change with their most accomplished player, when it comes to filling what's widely considered the most important position on the line.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said even though right tackle Taylor Moton has taken some snaps on the left this spring, that's not a change they intend to make permanent.
"We're down some guys some days, and he kicks over there and plays some left tackle at times," Rhule said. "I think if we were planning on doing it, it would be a full-time move at this point.
"But it's something where we're just giving him some reps. Just like the right guard sometimes plays left guard. Taylor's a great guy, and he always wants to challenge himself and try new things, so that's good."
Asked what it would lead Moton to play on the left, Rhule replied: "If he's the best available."
Matt Rhule explains artificial noise at practice, updates on player progression Sam Darnold talks about learning new system, progression towards minicamp Phil Snow expresses excitement about new pieces on defense, growth of veterans
The Panthers are sifting through a number of options there, beginning with veteran Cameron Erving, and also Greg Little and Dennis Daley, with Trent Scott still recovering from shoulder surgery. They also have rookie third-rounder Brady Christensen, who played left tackle at BYU, but he's been working in other spots throughout the spring (they had him graded on their draft board as a third-round tackle, but a second-round guard).
While there's an easy argument that Moton's their best offensive lineman, he's also taken practically all his work on the right side (including every snap last year). Rhule said the comfort there is a factor, comparing it to driving in another country where they use the opposite side of the road.
"You can do it, but you feel a lot more comfortable evading an accident when you're on the side you're normally on," Rhule said. "When things are reversed, you can do it, but when things go really fast and you're in a bad situation, you just don't have as much time without that muscle memory.
"It's fun for him, but it's not something we're majorly doing."
SPREADING THE WORD
The NFL has relaxed rules for players and staff members who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, such as eliminating the need to wear masks for fully vaccinated personnel.
Rhule said he wasn't trying to persuade anyone in any direction, but wanted to make sure players have the appropriate information (including how they'd benefit in the workplace).
"It's fair to say I don't tell anyone what to do," Rhule said. "It's their personal decision. As with any topic in life, I always say do your research, but do it from the right sources. Talk to doctors, talk to your doctors, talk to our doctors. And obviously, making sure our guys know the difference between being vaccinated and unvaccinated. There are differences in the protocols, and there will be differences in training camp.
"My job is to give people information and let them make decisions. Not much beyond that."
Quarterback Sam Darnold said he hasn't been vaccinated yet, and is still doing his own research.
"There's a ton of different things that go into it," Darnold said. "I'm going to evaluate that on my own and make the best decision that I feel is the best for myself."
Kicker Joey Slye said he initially had some doubts about the vaccine and the virus, but after hearing from doctors at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital (where his late brother was treated for cancer), he called the decision to be vaccinated a "no-brainer."
THE BIGGER, THE BETTER
Defensive coordinator Phil Snow said he was encouraged by all the cool new stuff he gets to try during OTAs, with all the additions to the defense this offseason.
But some of the changes are with players he already knows well.
Snow was discussing the need to be "big inside," to defend the run, and said that goes beyond defensive linemen Derrick Brown and Daquan Jones.
He mentioned that veteran linebacker Shaq Thompson was 10 pounds heavier this offseason (from the 225-pound range to 235) as another factor that should help.
"If you look at Shaq right now, Shaq's added some weight," Snow said. "I asked him to this offseason, and he's done a terrific job.
"He looks terrific, and he's moving as well or better."
The Panthers have had good attendance throughout the voluntary OTAs (with the exception of wide receiver Robby Anderson), though some players have been in and out.
First-round cornerback Jaycee Horn was among the players who weren't on the field Wednesday, though Rhule didn't elaborate on his absence.
Some other players weren't on the field Wednesday (including pass-rusher Haason Reddick and tight end Dan Arnold), though the turnout has been encouraging during the three weeks of OTAs, in advance of next week's mandatory minicamp.
BRINGING THE NOISE
Rhule wasn't able to bring the Carolina Hurricanes any luck last night, but he brought home memories that he hopes carry over until the fall.
Rhule attended last night's playoff game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and sounded the siren at the start of the third period. The Hurricanes lost and were eliminated from the playoffs, but Rhule was impressed with the atmosphere, including fans staying after the game to give the team a standing ovation.
He took cell phone video of the ambience, and showed it to the team this morning.
"It was unbelievable," Rhule said. "I started the team meeting showing them my little cell phone video I sent to my son. I was like 'Wow, I forgot what this was like.'"
- The Panthers practiced with artificial crowd noise during some late-game situation work Wednesday, to get the players used to that again.
- On the final play of practice, Slye missed a 63-yard field goal, when it hit the left upright about three-quarters of the way up.
- There were a few more players in red jerseys Wednesday, which indicate they're recovering from injury. Defensive end Morgan Fox and wide receiver Shi Smith were part of that crowd.
- Owner David Tepper checked out practice Wednesday, spending much of the time on the sidelines with general manager Scott Fitterer.
- Rhule confirmed that the Panthers had finalized plans to spend two days working out with the Colts before their preseason game, hoping to get as many nearly-live reps as possible against other teams prior to the regular season.