Panthers' Rhule remains in no hurry to announce starting QB

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule has been adamant for weeks that he wouldn’t rush to announce a winner in the ongoing quarterback competition between Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield.

That hasn’t changed, even with his team just days from taking the field for their second exhibition game, a point Rhule had previously indicated he wanted to have the situation settled.

Rhule said Wednesday that the when, isn’t as important as being satisfied that he’s gathered all the information he needs.

“I think the thing I’ve said all along is that we wanted to at least get to this point where when we know, we know,” Rhule said after the Panthers second joint practice with New England.

“So, it could be at any point. It could be two more weeks from now. It could be now. ... I’m not saying it will be two weeks from now. I’m just saying we’re just making sure we’re thorough.”

Mayfield and Darnold have shared the reps with the first team over the past two days, with Mayfield seeming to have a better overall command of the offense and success in the 11-on-11 periods against New England’s defense.

But Darnold has shown flashes of what made the New York Jets select him third overall in the 2018 draft, including him working to turn a busted play into a TD pass to DJ Moore in the back of the end zone during two-minute drill work Wednesday.

“We’re both doing everything we can to win the job,” Darnold said. “I thought I improved a ton. I thought our whole team improved a ton, with their defense and the way that they fly around.”

Neither quarterback has had a full complement of playmakers this week, with running back Christian McCaffrey on a play limit and receivers Robbie Anderson and Terrace Marshall Jr. limited as well.

Still, Rhule has been impressed by what he’s seen.

“I think both guys have executed a ton,” he said. “Not a ton of interceptions but have protected the ball well. The key situations — the low (red zone) and the two-minute — we’ve gotten done what we need to get done to a degree. So, I think a lot of good things.”

Rhule said he plans to mostly play his second- and third-team players in Friday’s exhibition matchup with New England, though he didn’t say who would get the start at quarterback.

Mayfield said he feels as comfortable with the playbook as he's had since arriving from Cleveland via trade in July 6.

“To be honest with you, I haven’t been worried about when the decision’s going to be made or any of that timeline wise,” Mayfield said. “Just trying to put my head down and just handle it one day at a time. And that’s been the mindset for both Sam and I. Just how can we be playing the best ball by the end of camp and just handle it correctly.

“Organizations go as their QB rooms go, and as long as we’re leading correctly and we’re supporting each other, good things are gonna happen.”

For now, Rhule said they plan to stick to the plan they laid out prior to training camp.

“We’re not winging it,” he said. “We have a really good plan and I just don’t feel at liberty to share it out of respect for the guys.”

Everyone else will just have to wait.

BOZEMAN OUT 2-3 WEEKS

Rhule said that the lower leg injury Bradley Bozeman sustained in Tuesday’s practice session isn’t as bad as they initially feared.

Bozeman could barely put pressure on his left leg and had to be carted off the field after the injury. But Rhule said further evaluation didn’t reveal a fracture.

“We were told on the field it could be a fracture, thankfully it’s not,” Rhule said. “It’s not just a high ankle sprain, it’s some complications, some other injuries inside there. We think it’s going to be 2-3 weeks, depending on how healing goes. Not the best news, but obviously not as bad as we thought.”

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