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For Tyrell Sutton fans


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Sounds like they love him in Carolina.


Finally, Panther's Sutton is fitting in

Work ethic, intelligence has paid dividends


By Darin Gantt - daringantt@carolina.rr.com


CHARLOTTE -- The Carolina Panthers thought there was something they liked about Tyrell Sutton when they claimed him off waivers in September.


It's just taken until now to figure out what exactly it was.


Sutton has emerged as this year's scrap-heap find and could pay valuable dividends down the road. The undrafted rookie from Northwestern was snapped up when cut by Green Bay after an impressive training camp, and with each passing week, does more and more to catch the eye of his teammates and coaches.


Steve Smith, no less an authority on out-of-nowhere success, compared him to New England's do-everything running back Kevin Faulk, the guy who runs, blocks, catches, returns kicks and is often Tom Brady's target on key fourth-down plays.


“A lot of the good things he's done, he's able to get opportunities for himself,” Smith said. “He's made a role for himself we might not have known we had. Now he's a guy we have to keep on the field, have to keep him dressed because of the versatile role he can play.”




The first crack in the door came against New Orleans, when he became the world's smallest fullback.


Listed at 5-foot-8, 213 pounds, Sutton hardly fit the physical description of the position but played the game passably well.


“I thought it was a joke,” Sutton said. “My initial reaction was, ‘Why not put Stew (running back Jonathan Stewart) back there?' He's the one who actually has the weight size of a fullback.”


But it was more a testament to Sutton's quick uptake than his sheer physical force, because there were a few moments when he was thrown aside by Saints linebackers. But coaches were impressed with his ability to grasp the offensive concept, and that's what made them go his direction when they had no other healthy options.


Running backs coach Jim Skipper gives all his players a test each Friday night on the game plan for that week to check their preparedness, and he's been impressed with Sutton's early grasp of what's being asked.


“A guy won't have a good understanding of it until he gets into that position and hones in,” Skipper said. “It helps to be sharp mentally. That's where Sutton came in, he really caught on to our system pretty quick. He was very willing to do that. The thing with him, it's his very first game period, and he's playing a different position.


“Hey, he didn't flinch. He jumped right in stride; that's a feather in his cap.”




Sutton's ability to adapt has expanded his role weekly. He's leap-frogged fourth-round pick Mike Goodson — a guy with more speed, more explosiveness but less of a handle of the game — and has even taken away some snaps from the high-profile backs.


In their late-game drives against Miami, Sutton was on the field because he presents the kind of versatility as blocker, pass-catcher and runner needed when things get frantic.


“He's done a fantastic job,” quarterback Jake Delhomme said. “I don't think there's any doubt. The situations we've put him in, to play fullback in the New Orleans game. And the situation the other night (against the Dolphins), he was in there and he made some great plays for us and almost made another one.


“He's smart, he's tough and the game is not too big for him. He's a great find by our guys. A great, great find. ... It's hard to find guys like that, but when you do, those guys get a reputation and they end up sticking for a while. Every team in the league has those guys. It's a security blanket.”


Even though he has little experience, they've now asked him to return kicks. He did it once in college and just five times in Packers camp, but the results are better than you'd think.


He didn't get to bring one out of the end zone against Atlanta, but the Dolphins allowed him to bring a few out, and he promptly returned four for 106 yards, a 26.5 average that's far and away tops on the team. Part of it's because of his slam-it-in-there style. He returned those kicks like a running back rather than a receiver, hitting his hole quickly and getting upfield.




“I'm just trying to get where I fit in,” Sutton said of his role. “If it's water boy or it's being long-snapper, it doesn't really matter.”


That kind of perspective's rare for any rookie but speaks to what's made Sutton such a quick favorite.


“He's a smart kid,” Hoover said. “He comes in and whatever they've asked him to do, he's been able to go out there and do it at a very high level. He's just a football player, and smart at that.


“Especially as a rookie, sometimes you can be in awe. He hadn't really dressed until the New Orleans game and stepped in and played fullback. And the last couple of games he's played well. He's mature enough and mentally stable enough to play at a high level.”

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Oh boy, Rifferx is gonna blow a gasket over this latest report, he loves this kid and I'm right behind him.


Interesting comparison to Kevin Faulk, although I don't see it that way. I've always thought of Sutton in the Lee Suggs, Jerome Harrison mold ... and figured that is why we never sniff at him.


Faulk is an interesting discussion in himself. I remember him taking snaps in a sort of 'WildDawg' role many years ago at LSU. That guy must have sure realized his role early with the Patriots and it's paid off huge in longevity.


I'm not sure I even knew Green Bay released Sutton (or was that one of our many discussions here about him). The kid had an outstanding preseason. How in the World do we not bring him in for a look?


Sounds like Sutton is everything that Harrison is not.


Thanks for sharing Alo.

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Just another example of why this franchise is a bunch of losers. The kid may as well have been hanging out at the front door of Berea saying he would pay the team to give him a shot and the stupid asses would have slammed the door in his face.


Mind boggling.

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