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Panthers WR coach Ricky Proehl on Damiere Byrd: 'Someone to reckon with'

Panthers WR Damiere Byrd gets by Daryl Worley during rookie camp drills last week. AP Photo/Chuck Burton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Damiere Byrd barely was visible as he broke down the Carolina Panthers huddle following last weekend’s rookie minicamp.

Not surprising. The wide receiver is the smallest player on the Carolina roster at 5-foot-9.

But the second-year player out of the University of South Carolina stood out among the draft picks, undrafted rookies and tryout players with his performance.

Wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl doesn’t expect that to change when Byrd joins the rest of the team for offseason workouts that begin on Tuesday.

"He’s going to be someone to reckon with," Proehl said.

Byrd was signed as an undrafted free agent last year because of his speed. He posted a 4.28 40-yard dash on grass during his Pro Day at South Carolina.

The Panthers thought enough of Byrd after training camp to sign him to the practice squad, where he spent most of last season. They signed him to the regular roster in February after Super Bowl 50.

“His speed and confidence and coming back with the development he had last year, he’s a totally different player," Proehl said. “He’s going to make some noise in this offseason."

Byrd has added 8 pounds of muscle to his 179-pound frame. He takes pride in that.

"You guys should ask him about that," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. “He’ll love the fact that you guys would mention he looks bigger."

But what Rivera liked most about Byrd during the rookie camp was the way he emerged as a leader.

“Very rarely do you see a wide receiver step up like that," he said.

General manager Dave Gettleman makes it no secret he likes big receivers, evidenced by seven of the 12 on the roster being between 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-5.

He also knows that it takes speed to keep defenses honest. Ted Ginn Jr. and Philly Brown showed that last season.

Byrd could be another extension of that.

“You look around our room ... everybody looks and says other than Kelvin [Benjamin] what do we have?" Proehl said of the 2014 first-round pick that missed last season with a knee injury.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that do a lot of different things. It’s our jobs as coaches to put the pieces together and put these guys in position to have success."

Byrd is realistic enough to know it will be tough to make the team simply as a receiver. Carolina likely will carry only six on the 53-man roster. Benjamin (6-foot-5), Devin Funchess (6-foot-4), Ginn (5-foot-11) and Brown (5-foot-11) would appear to be locks.

The Panthers also are high on Stephen Hill (6-foot-4), Kevin Norwood (6-foot-2) and Keyarris Garrett (6-foot-3).

Avius Capers (5-foot-9), Cobi Hamilton (6-foot-2) and Miles Shuler (5-foot-11) also are on the roster.

Byrd doesn’t get caught up in the numbers.

“As a player, if you get caught up in the numbers it’s never going to go in your favor," he said. “You never know what’s going to happen. You never know how the numbers will shift. You never know how many we’ll take into the season.

“If you just worry about playing the game and playing well, they can’t deny you."

That’s what Byrd did during the rookie camp, and that’s what caught the staff’s eye.

“I have higher expectations than anybody else, just naturally," Byrd said. “That’s just who I am. But I definitely feel the confidence from Rick and Coach Rivera.

“They both will give me the opportunity to play, and that’s all I can ask for."