The Carolina Panthers wide receiver group at training camp has several new faces since last season, including speedsters Russell Shepard and Curtis Samuel.
But former South Carolina star Damiere Byrd is maintaining the same mindset that allowed him to make Carolina’s 53-man roster a year ago, despite there being new competition at the position.
“We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of bodies. But it seems like every year we go into camp with the same saying, ‘a lot of talent and a lot of bodies,’ ” Byrd recently told The State. “That’s just what this league is about. Every year there’s going to be new talent that comes in. There’s going to be a lot of bodies around. You just have to know your role that they have you in at receiver and just continue to perfect that.”
Byrd is entering his third season of professional football after being a part of some of the most successful seasons in Gamecocks history.
He was one of the fastest players in the country when he played at South Carolina and is now one of the fastest players on the Panthers roster, along with Samuel and Shepard.
Samuel was drafted by the Panthers in the second round out of Ohio State, while Shepard spent the previous four seasons playing for the Buccaneers after a productive career at LSU.
The Panthers have some proven playmakers at receiver in starters Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess, but there are question marks after that.
Wofford product Brenton Bersin joins Shepard as a second-team receiver on Carolina’s initial depth chart, while Byrd and Samuel are listed on the third-team.
Byrd is hoping to impress enough to make the team and be a factor on offense after making one regular season catch in 2016 while splitting time between the 53-man roster and practice squad. He was also on Carolina’s practice squad for most of the 2015 season.
“What happened last year shows that I can make this team. It shows that I can make plays for this team,” Byrd said. “Going into camp knowing that and knowing that I don’t have to do anything out of the ordinary for me to make this team, just continue to be who I am. If that was enough to make it last year, it will be enough to open eyes this year.”
One way Byrd is hoping to open eyes is with his play on special teams. He was a contributor on special teams in high school and college and has continued to try to impress with his play there in the NFL.
“Being a four-way guy on special teams is really where I could find my way into a spot on this team, as well as playing receiver,” Byrd said. “I think being a return man with punt returner, being able to run down on punt team as a gunner or run down on kickoff will really be good for me.”
Byrd is also working to contribute in a number of different ways on offense.
He is comfortable enough with the system and terminology that he can play a number of receiver positions and can fill in if anyone goes down with an injury or needs a breather.
“The more you know the better,” Byrd said. “Being in the playbook for three years already I’ve really learned a lot, everything that I need to know to be able to be out there efficiently without thinking and just be able to go out there and play.”