Panther Update 7-15

Get the latest info on the Carolina Panthers. This week: Hurney finds a Frenchman under a rock, Panthers pass on Darius, a few more NFL Europa players get a shot at the big league and a rookie linebacker talks about the differences between playing outside and inside.

--Panthers general manager Marty Hurney is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to finding NFL talent, even signing a former member of the French national bobsled team.

Linebacker Philippe Gardent, a native of Chamrousse, France, joined the Panthers after five seasons in NFL Europa, including the last three with the Cologne Centurions. Prior to playing in NFL Europa, Gardent attended NSC Marseille and then played for the Argonautes d'Aix en Provence of the French Federation of American Football in 2001 and 2002. Ranked as France's fourth-best downhill skier for his age group at age 16, he was on the national development team and was later a member of the French national bobsled team.

Gardent, 6-1 and 240 pounds, led the Centurions with 77 tackles and notched one sack and three passes defensed in 2007 to help the team finish first in the league in total defense. He garnered All-NFL Europa League team recognition for the second consecutive year and was twice named the NFL Europa League National Player of the Week.

In 2006, Gardent was named the NFL Europa Co-Defensive MVP to become the first international player in league history to win the offensive or defensive MVP award. He ranked first on Cologne with 70 tackles and posted one sack. Following the NFL Europa season, Gardent signed with the Washington Redskins and spent the entire 2006 campaign on their practice squad.

Gardent began his NFL Europa career in 2003 with Berlin before appearing in just two games for the Thunder the next season because of an injury. He joined Cologne in 2005 and recorded 14 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one pass defensed.

Carolina may exceed the 80-player roster limit for training camp because they have seven roster exemptions for NFL Europa players. The Panthers received four exemptions for the four players they allocated to NFL Europa this season and gained two bonus exemptions for allocating more than three players. The team got an additional exemption for signing an NFL Europa player from another country.

--After a brief flirtation, the Carolina Panthers passed on the opportunity to sign free agent safety Donovin Darius because of concerns over his range and past injuries. Darius signed a three-year contract with the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday worth more than $7 million. He is coming off a broken leg and torn ACL in the last two seasons.

The Panthers remain thin in the secondary with Nate Salley slated to start opposite Mike Minter, who will retire at the end of the season. Look for the team to add a veteran safety at some point, possibly after cuts are made in August. Although safety may not be the most important position on the field it is the last line of defense and the Panthers can't run the risk of allowing that to disrupt their success on defense this season.

--The Panthers signed three other NFL Europa players -- wide receiver Josh Davis, offensive lineman Bobby Harris and defensive tackle Gary Gibson. All three will receive roster exemptions. Carolina also officially announced the signing of fourth-round pick Ryne Robinson, who agreed to terms last week. To make room on the roster, the Panthers released quarterback Justin Zwick, the former Ohio State backup who joined the team for the final week of summer school.

QUOTABLE: "In the middle you have to be a lot more focused. A lot more is on you as far as getting the signals in and making the checks. If you're outside you stay out of it and Dan makes you the call. There's a lot more pressure on the Mike. The speed in the trenches has been the same. I'm really impressed with the DBs and the receivers and how quick they are and their ball skills. But I know when those pads come on it should be a little different." -- Panthers first-round draft pick LB Jon Beason, who will work at outside linebacker in training camp.


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