Panthers shift rookie Brown to right DE as Peppers' holdout persists

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Everette Brown's switch to the right side midway through Tuesday's workout was part of a larger decision to test the versatility of the Carolina Panthers' defensive ends.

Yet it was hard not to realize the significance of the moment: Brown was playing Julius Peppers' position.

Experience: Rookie

Height: 6-2

Weight: 256

College: Florida State

With Peppers still a no-show, his agent not talking and his future with the Panthers uncertain, Brown eventually might find a home at right defensive end.

"Through college, probably 90 percent of my plays were on the right side," Brown said when asked about Panthers defensive line coach Brian Baker's decision to shift all ends to the other side. "I wasn't a stranger to it."

While Brown has been taking most of his repetitions with the second-team defense, it's clear the Panthers have a lot riding on the former Florida State star's quick ascension.

The team thought so highly of the Atlantic Coast Conference's leader in sacks last season that it traded its 2010 first-round pick to San Francisco for the 49ers' second-round choice in the April draft. After not making a trade involving Peppers, who wants to play elsewhere and hasn't signed his one-year tender under the franchise tag, the Panthers took Brown with the 43rd pick.

While Panthers coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney remain confident that Peppers, a perennial Pro Bowler, will show up for training camp, agent Carl Carey has made no such statement and hasn't returned phone messages in months. Peppers, who's apparently working out in Arizona, hasn't talked to reporters since January.

That means Brown, who left Florida State after his junior season, might be counted on to play a major role in 2009. While for now Tyler Brayton has kept his starting job at left defensive end, and third-year pro Charles Johnson has been playing in Peppers' spot, Brown is impressing his teammates.

"He's a real good player," said right tackle Jeff Otah, who has been matched against Brown when he has played left defensive end. "He's got real good quickness, and he has that strength that it doesn't look like he has."

At just 6-foot-2 and 256 pounds, Brown is small for an NFL defensive end, a major reason he slipped into the second round of the draft despite having 13.5 sacks last season. But new Panthers defensive coordinator Ron Meeks' system depends on speed and quickness, which Brown hopes to use as he regularly faces players at least 50 pounds heavier and four inches taller than him.

"The biggest adjustment has just been technique -- working on hand placement. And the key thing is to keep offensive linemen off of you, Brown said. "Just the repetition of hand drills and playing with good leverage."

Brown, who mostly was known as a pass rusher in college, has plenty to learn about stopping the run. He'll also have to read offensive schemes better, and he acknowledged that "some of the things I did in college don't work here."

But if Peppers fails to report to Panthers training camp in Spartanburg, S.C., on Aug. 2, Brown might have to take a quick crash course in the preseason -- and stay on the right side.

"Talking to the vets, one thing they tell me is that the speed will pick up," Brown said. "You anticipate that once the pads come on. I'm looking forward to getting to Spartanburg and getting after it."

Notes:Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart has yet to practice this offseason. He missed May's minicamp with what was called a sore ankle and has yet to participate in this month's optional workouts, apparently because of the same injury. He has declined interview requests. ... A cheer erupted after Fox informed the team that he has cut short the schedule. The team will practice Wednesday, then be off until Monday. The Panthers will finish workouts June 16, two days earlier than scheduled.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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