Panthers' Shaq Thompson would rather chase running backs, not be one

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Let’s put this to rest once and for all: Carolina Panthers first-round pick Shaq Thompson has no desire to show off his athletic ability as a running back.

“I’m positive,’’ Thompson said on Tuesday. “I’m 100 percent positive. We have Jonathan Stewart, Fozzy [Whittaker], Jordan [Todman], Cameron Artis-Payne . . . the list goes down.’’

Thompson could play running back. He did so part-time last season at the University of Washington, rushing for 456 yards and two touchdowns.

But the Panthers would rather have the 6-foot-1, 228-pound outside linebacker tackling running backs.

That is Thompson’s preference as well.

“I mean, it’s different to get hit,’’ he said. “I got hit a couple of times. I was, ‘Geez, I know what side I want to play.’’’

Thompson has played spectator for most of his four months with the Panthers. He was in class during most of the offseason workouts, and sidelined with a hamstring injury much of the time he was in Charlotte.

The hamstring flared again prior to training camp at Wofford College and limited him for two weeks.

But Thompson is healthy now, and on a crash course of blitzes and coverages. He’s the X factor in Carolina’s defense in terms of new ways for defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to bring pressure.

On Tuesday, Thompson flawlessly went from covering Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen on a deep sideline route to blitzing quarterback Cam Newton.

Much of how he’ll be used will be seen the next two days of practice against the Miami Dolphins.

Where you won’t see Thompson is at running back.

“I know it’s going to keep coming,’’ Thompson said of the questions. “And it’s going to be the same answer: No.’’