Tony Pike stands out in the Carolina Panthers locker room.
And it is not because of his 6-foot-6 stature.
It has a lot more to do with his personality and focus. Fellow rookie receiver David Gettis developed a relationship with Pike before the season and noticed similar qualities.
The 23-year-old receiver recalls hanging out with Pike because they stayed at the same hotel last summer and talked in the locker room. So it was pretty easy to like Pike, Gettis said. He also praised Pike’s ability to learn the playbook, despite missing the first two weeks of Organized Training Activities due to an NFL rule that bars players on the quarter system from playing until their class graduates.
“He has done everything the coaches have asked him to do,” Gettis said. “He has made plays and come to work everyday. That is our job. He has done a great job at that. Whenever an opportunity comes I’m sure he will be fully adequate and ready to go.”
Pike, 24, is ready to go, and he believes getting more reps and adjusting to the speed of the NFL are important at this stage of his career. Pike understands the importance of taking everything from the film room to the field.
He didn’t give a letter grade for his first NFL action against the New Orleans Saints, which Pike was 6 of 12 for 47 yards and a 60.1 passer rating. But he said there were “ups and downs,” and it was a good barometer of what he needs to do.
“I think the biggest thing you want is to get on the same page with the guys,” Pike said. “That is one thing this week will bring and getting a few reps in there. And knowing this guy, and knowing the speed of this guy and whether they are going to break their routes. That was the biggest adjustment. It took a series or two to get going.”
Pike said he didn’t get many reps before the Saints game because he was third string. Panthers coach John Fox echoed Pikes’ assessment and said he thought Pike did a good job.
“I think he has a lot of room for growth, and I think he will continue to do that,” Fox said.
Pike said he wanted to show the coaches the offense could move the ball a little bit when he entered the game in the fourth quarter. He notes the brunt of his preparation was mental, but Pike was going against a good Saints defense, which is vital for the rest of the season.
“I think it was a good time for me to go in there,” he said. “It is one thing to know all the stuff but to get in there on the two minute (offense), and you have to make decisions on the run and things started to feel better in there at the end. It was good for me in the end there. I felt good coming out of there.”
Pike notes coming into the game down by 31 points he had to be quicker with his decisions because the Panthers were in passing situations. After getting a couple series, Pike said everything began to slow down.
In spite of the difficult situation he inherited, Pike was excited about his first chance to play. He said he could hear some of the cheers as he entered the game to an half-empty Bank of America Stadium that had more Saint’s fans. He said it was “welcoming” to hear it from the fans because they and the team have been through a lot this year.
That maturity and appreciation will likely come into play because according to STATS LLC no team has had three rookie quarterbacks on its gameday roster since the records began in 1991. Rookie receiver Armanti Edwards will be the third-sting, emergency quarterback and has taken snaps this week.
To go with three rookie quarterbacks, the Panthers have a 1-7 record and face a tough opponent in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But all three quarterbacks have great attitudes, and Pike’s optimism due to some tough experiences should help.
In 2008, he came into his junior year as fourth on the depth chart at the University of Cincinnati, but he became the starter and played great. He had to overcome two broken arms while at Cincinnati.
He even had to overcome getting drafted in the sixth round, which was shocking because he won a lot of games as a starter and was a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2009. In addition, Pike had to beat out Hunter Cantwell in training camp to make the team.
Even though he would have preferred to have been drafted higher and not miss eight OTA practices, Pike looks at Carolina as a blessing. This is a good situation, and the guys in the locker room are good people, Pike added.
More importantly, Pike doesn’t look at himself as a victim. Instead, those experiences have helped prepare him for his current opportunity.
“Just like last Sunday, you are two plays away,” he said. “Then you are one play away now. And you can see in this league how quick that can happen. Obviously, Jimmy (Clausen) is the No. 2, and he has gotten a lot of time this year. And for me I’m going to take every rep like I’m the starter and make the most out of each one.”
Injury Report: Defensive end Greg Hardy (concussion), running back Jonathan Stewart (concussion), running back Tyrell Sutton (ankle) and running back DeAngelo Williams (foot) did not practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
Cornerback Richard Marshall didn’t practice due to a team decision. He said he was sore, and the team decided he wouldn’t practice. Marshall believes he will practice on Friday.
After being limited in practice Wednesday, weakside linebacker Nic Harris (knee) had full participation in practice. He will also get his first start of the season against the Bucs.