A.J. Green next up on Carolina's list

NEW ORLEANS – Carolina general manager Marty Hurney is at the NFL owners meeting -- at the moment.

If you ignore the labor situation, Hurney just might be the busiest and most important man in the NFL right now. He holds the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft. Right now, the draft is the only thing we know for sure that will take place this year.

But Hurney’s going to be leaving New Orleans later today. His next stop will be Athens, Ga. For the University of Georgia’s pro day on Tuesday. Hurney, who can be pretty guarded about personnel matters at times, didn’t even try to hide the fact he and some other Carolina officials and coaches are going to Georgia to see receiver A.J. Green.

Hurney admitted Green is one of the five to seven players the Panthers are considering at the No. 1 pick. Although recent private and public workouts of Auburn’s Cam Newton and Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert have a lot of people thinking the Panthers have decided on taking a quarterback, Hurney said that’s not the case.

“That group hasn’t changed,’’ Hurney said. “We’re keeping our options. You never know what might happen in the meantime. As we get closer, day to day and week to week, you always have an order in your mind. That order can change.’’

Like LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, Green plays a position that teams often shy away from taking at No. 1. But the Panthers went to Peterson’s pro day and met with him privately. They’ll do the same with Green and it’s likely he and Peterson are on a list with the two quarterbacks and several defensive linemen.

“That’s where we’re at,’’ Hurney said. “We certainly are going to look at the quarterbacks, but we’re also in the process of trying to gather as much information as possible on the other players that we think qualify for that area.’’

In year’s past, some teams holding the No. 1 pick have gone ahead and made their intentions clear days or weeks before the draft. Don’t count on that happening with the Panthers.

“At this point, with the way things are, there’s no reason to do that,’’ Hurney said.

With the league in a lockout, teams can’t reach out to the agents for top prospects to get a feel for potential salary demands.

“If there’s no reason to say that, why say that because you can keep all your options open?’’ Hurney said. “You go through your process and do your homework. When that time comes, you’ll know.

“The most important thing is selecting the right player. If you find the right player, everything else is going to take care of itself. You should get a good player with the first pick. But you’ve got to find the player who is going to give you the most impact on your football team and in your organization.’’