posted on Jun, 4 2004 @ 02:02 PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The way Colin Branch sees it, the Carolina Panthers' starting free safety job is his to lose. "I have kind of put the
responsibility on myself and I expect to win that position," he said Friday. "I feel that I'm the one the coaches are looking at."
Branch appears to be the heir apparent to Deon Grant, who left via free agency to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A fourth-round draft pick out of Stanford in 2003, Branch opened the team's three-week minicamp this week with the first team at free safety. He was
ahead of four-year veteran Travares Tillman, third-year special teams standout Jarrod Cooper and longtime veteran Damien Richardson, who is attempting
to return from a knee injury that kept him out of last season.
Branch saw only limited action as a rookie. He played in all 20 games, but primarily worked on special teams where he had 12 tackles. He had two
tackles on defense.
Despite losing Grant, the Panthers didn't address the free safety position through free agents or in the NFL draft, a sign of confidence in the
candidates they have.
"Colin is a young man that we drafted and like," Panthers head coach John Fox said. "He didn't get a lot of playing opportunities last year but he is
smart and he is tough."
That doesn't rule out the possibility of the Panthers bringing in a more experienced player down the road, but in all likelihood they will go with
what they've got.