- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 28, 2010

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) - The familiar sights were missing on Wednesday morning as 80 mostly young guys reported for the start of Carolina Panthers training camp.

There was no wondering which side door Julius Peppers might try to sneak through to avoid reporters outside the dormitory. The star defensive end is in Chicago now.

Jake Delhomme didn’t walk up with his familiar smile and trash bag draped over his shoulder. The seven-year starting quarterback was cut, then signed with Cleveland.

No sign of veterans Muhsin Muhammad, Brad Hoover, Damione Lewis, Maake Kemoeatu, Na’il Diggs, Chris Harris or Keydrick Vincent, either. All were former starters. All were then let go in the Panthers‘ offseason youth movement.

Just how young is Carolina? Steve Smith, at 31, is the oldest position player on the roster and one of only four players not born in the 1980s.

“The vibe around here is unknown,” said Smith, out of his cast but still weeks away from returning from a broken arm. “Literally, half of them just pulled up.”

The new leader looked different, too. Matt Moore, thrust into the starting quarterback job despite just eight career starts, showed up with a thin beard.

At least he’s old enough to grow one.

“There’s a lot of wide eyes with the youth,” Moore said.

After finishing 8-8 last season and under orders by owner Jerry Richardson to cut costs with labor unrest looming, the Panthers begin a season full of uncertainty that includes their coach.

Only Jeff Fisher in Tennessee, Bill Belichick in New England and Andy Reid in Philadelphia have been with their teams longer than John Fox. But his ninth season in Carolina could be his last after he was denied a contract extension in the offseason.

Fox enters the last year of his deal with the challenge of getting a team with 63 players who are 25 or younger ready to compete in the same division as the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

“I feel like I’m one of the older guys because I’m in my third year,” said Mackenzy Bernadeau, a candidate to start at right guard.

The biggest intrigue will be at QB and on the defensive line.

After finishing strong last season, Moore was handed the starting job when Delhomme was released following his miserable season. Moore is 6-2 as a starter, but those games came over two seasons after Carolina was already effectively eliminated from playoff contention.

Story Continues →