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NFL: Panthers notebook

Associated Press
SPARTANBURG, S.C. ó Chris Gamble is getting paid like a shutdown cornerback. He might soon get the added responsibility that comes with it.
Under former defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac, the Panthers shied away from assigning one cornerback to the opposing team’s top receiver, preferring zone coverage. Yet the image of Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald running free over the middle in Carolina’s playoff loss was the culmination of a late-season defensive collapse.
Under new coordinator Ron Meeks, the Panthers have simplified the defense. That could mean Gamble, who signed a six-year, $50 million extension late last season, will spend Sundays matching up with Fitzgerald, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and the other big-name receivers.
“I feel like they pay me to do that, and that’s what I really want to do,” Gamble said Thursday. “I did it in college, so I feel like I can do it here. I’m just ready for that challenge.”
The Panthers haven’t revealed their secondary plans,and Fox indicated they’ve assigned a cornerback to specific receivers in the past.
“You mix that up,” Fox said. “We’ve done both.”
Gamble joined the list of vocal fans of Meeks’ system, designed to take advantage of Carolina’s speedy, athletic players.
“When it’s simple you can go out there and play faster. Last year was just a lot, a lot of thinking,” Gamble said. “This year it’s going to be just playing fast and a lot of simple calls.”
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DAVIS, BEASON SIDELINED: Thomas Davis didn’t practice Thursday and wasn’t on an adjacent field with the rest of the injured players, a day after suffering a right knee injury.
With Jon Beason (hamstring) sidelined for a fifth straight practice, the Panthers were without two of three starting linebackers.
“It’s not going to require surgery or any of those kind of things,” Fox said of Davis. “It’s a knee sprain.”
It left Dan Connor at middle linebacker and Landon Johnson on the outside when the Panthers conducted their first 11-on-11 red zone drills. Tackling wasn’t allowed, and the defense held its own.
Nick Hayden, working with the starters after defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu (torn Achilles’ tendon) was lost for the season, knocked down a Jake Delhomme pass at the line of scrimmage. Cornerback Richard Marshall later broke up a pass at the goal line.
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JARRETT’S TIME: Moments after not seeing Dwayne Jarrett walk to the locker room to get his left wrist taped, Fox shouted across the field to an assistant.
“Where in the heck is Dwayne Jarrett?” he asked.
That question has been asked numerous times in a disappointing first two pro seasons for the former Southern California star.
This year Jarrett is determined to become a factor. With D.J. Hackett released in the offseason, Jarrett is the favorite for the No. 3 receiver role behind starters Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad.
“Your rookie year there is a lot coming at you, and the second year you gain more perspective. This year, coming in it’s like a cakewalk,” Jarrett said. “Even though you have to work hard and get better, it’s more comfortable. You don’t have to think about things as much, and you just go play.”
Jarrett caught only six passes his rookie year and was criticized for not knowing the playbook. He had 10 catches for 119 yards last season.
The player who set the Pac-10 record with 41 touchdown catches is still looking for his first NFL touchdown.
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EXTRA POINTS: Peppers was so quick on one spin move in a blocking drill that offensive tackle Jordan Gross was left grasping at air, drawing gasps from the crowd. A few minutes earlier, Damione Lewis and Ryan Kalil got their facemasks stuck; an assistant coach eventually unhooked them. … Reserve G C.J. Davis remained sidelined with a right ankle injury and was wearing a black cast. … Referee Jerome Boger and his crew worked the practice. They were in town to go over rule changes and points of emphasis with the players. … The Panthers practice at 9:10 a.m. and 6:40 p.m. Friday. The team then returns to Charlotte for Saturday’s annual practice at Bank of America Stadium.

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