<
>

T.J. Heath went from the golf course to pads when Panthers called

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – T.J. Heath was on the 13th hole at Stoney Brook Golf Course in Jacksonville, Alabama, on Tuesday when his phone began to buzz.

“I said, ‘Hold on a second,’ ’’ Heath recalled on Wednesday. “This could be good news.’’

It was.

The Carolina Panthers were looking for a player to replace veteran cornerback Chris Houston, who told the team earlier in the day he was retiring.

That led them to Heath, who had been out of football since the Miami Dolphins released him in March. Less than 24 hours later, Heath was on the practice fields at Wofford College making an impact.

He broke up two passes, including a sideline throw from third-string quarterback Joe Webb to undrafted rookie Damiere Byrd.

“I’ve been out of football for about a month and a half, so when I came in trying to make an impact right away,’’ Heath said.

The Panthers picked up Heath because he has experience in the league. He was signed by the Jaguars as an undrafted rookie out of Jacksonville State in 2011. He was with Cincinnati, Buffalo, Cleveland and Miami from 2012 through last season.

He’s a longshot to make the roster. The top four corners – Josh Norman, Charles Tillman, Bene’ Benwikere, Melvin White – appear to be locks. Carrington Byndom got some time with the first team at nickel back on Wednesday with Benwikere still nursing a hamstring injury.

But Heath is a perfect example of how you never know when you get that call, so you’d better be ready.

And as Heath noted, if he can keep making plays like he did on his first day, “I might be OK.’’

If not, he can go back to the golf course where he was working to improve on a front side 47 when the Panthers called.

“I got the call and my game just went bad,’’ Heath said. “I didn’t even finish."