Who needs big names? Just ask the Spurs

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers don't have a LeBron James when it come to their wide receivers -- at least not yet -- but they may have a Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills.

Maybe even a Kawhi Leonard.

"The one thing I love about football is it's a team game," veteran wide receiver Jason Avant said on Tuesday, the first of a three-day mandatory minicamp. "I know a lot of people worry about big names, but ask the Spurs about that."

Avant isn't predicting the Panthers will win the Super Bowl like the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA title by beating James and the superstar-laden Miami Heat four games to one.

But he is suggesting Carolina shouldn't be overlooked because it lost its top four wide receivers from last season and didn't replace them with big names.

"You look at Seattle last year," Avant said of the reigning Super Bowl champions. "They didn't have a whole bunch of receivers that everybody knew. They had [Percy] Harvin, who played basically one game [the Super Bowl]. It doesn't matter.

"You look at all of the Patriots teams. Can you remember all the receivers? They had David Givens out there, so it doesn't matter."

Givens, for the record, had 59 catches in 2005, 56 in 2004 and 34 in 2003. The Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2003 against the Panthers and in 2004 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Avant, who joined the Eagles in 2006, never had a season with more than 53 catches.

So Avant wasn't taking a shot at Givens.

"No, he's not a bad player," the 31-year-old said. "They just had guys out there that you don't remember their names, you know?"

The Panthers have a lot of no-names themselves. Outside of free-agent acquisitions Jerricho Cotchery and Avant, and first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin, the next most recognizable name might be Tiquan Underwood.

And more people know him for his high-top fade hairstyle than anything he's done on the field.

The rest of this group, the same group that quarterback Cam Newton said the rest of the NFL world refers to as the "sorriest receivers," includes Marvin McNutt, Tavarres King, Kealoha Pilares, De'Andre Presley and Brenton Bersin.

No Carolina receivers has the reputation of 35-year-old Steve Smith, the team's all-time leading receiver who was released during the offseason and picked up by Baltimore, but as a group they may be more talented.

Just don't ask Avant to evaluate them.

"I'm not in evaluation mode, but I think the guys are doing a great job," he said. "They're doing what they're asked. That's the only thing you can do. So we're looking forward to it. We're trying to be the best we can for our team."

That's not always a bad thing. Just ask the Spurs.