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Cam Newton turns to Panthers 'Principal' Brenton Bersin for questions

"The truth is, he is a very bright football player, understands the game tremendously," coach Ron Rivera said. AP Photo/Bob Leverone

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brenton Bersin has become the go-to wide receiver for Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Not necessarily on the field.

In the meeting room.

"Principal Bersin," Newton said with a smile.

This is one of several nicknames the two-time Pro Bowler has for Bersin. The other is Mat. "Like the doormat," Newton explained. "His middle name is Mathew, with one T. Mat, like the doormat."

But "Principal Bersin" is the one Newton uses the most these days, because that's what he represents when the Panthers (4-0) are in the film room or on the field preparing for an opponent such as Seattle on Sunday.

This may seem odd since Bersin was on the practice squad three weeks ago and he's not a high-profile player. But it's not when you hear why Newton came up with the nickname.

"He's a very smart player, especially with as much no-huddle as we do, we have to be mindful of self-scouting ourselves with giving away signals ... whether it is formation or what-not," Newton said.

"We've got to get it overseen by Principal Bersin before it can go, because he's the person that really pays attention to, ‘Well, that looks like so and so.' Or, ‘Nah, we can't do that because it's unclear.' If it goes through his eyes, then it's OK."

Bersin earned the distinction last season of being the first player from Wofford College to appear in an NFL regular-season game since team owner Jerry Richardson in 1959.

He played in 15 games, catching 13 passes for 151 yards and one touchdown. But with upgrades at wide receiver during the offseason, Bersin was released at the end of this year's training camp and signed to the practice squad.

When veteran Jerricho Cotchery suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 2, Bersin was called up because he could play all three receiver spots.

In a win at Tampa Bay before the bye week, he led Carolina receivers with four catches for 54 yards.

"He's going to make plays," said Cotchery, who hopes to return when Carolina resumes its schedule on Sunday at Seattle. "He's not going to make mistakes. He's going to catch the ball. He's going to block. He's going to do everything you ask him to do, and he's going to do it well."

Cotchery chuckles when Bersin's name is mentioned. It's not a lack of respect. It's because Cotchery considers Bersin "my guy."

He jokingly says he got injured so Bersin could get called up.

"I'm one of his biggest fans," he said. "He's not a guy that is going to generate a lot of buzz as far as he's a star player and things of that nature. Nobody is going to talk much about him because he does everything with ease.

"He just goes out there and does his job. He can make a spectacular play, but everybody is going to be like, ‘Oh, that's a good catch.' "

And the "Principal" nickname, Cotchery agreed, is well deserved.

"He knows a lot about football," he said. "He knows a lot about this scheme, all of the details of everything in this offense. He asks a lot of questions, and if anybody has any questions they ask him and he'll have those answers for them."

This began in 2012 when Bersin was an undrafted rookie. He did enough that he was invited back in 2013 and signed to the practice squad.

"The truth is, he is a very bright football player, understands the game tremendously," coach Ron Rivera said. "Even from his rookie year, players used to come to him and ask him questions, and he knew exactly where to go."

Bersin hopes he doesn't go anywhere when Cotchery returns. His goal is to be a playmaker, not a principal.