SPARTANBURG, S.C. — For much of the second half of Tuesday's practice, Panthers receiver Armanti Edwards was in the shotgun formation behind center, rookie quarterback Cam Newton was lined up at receiver and Ron Rivera was taking it all in.
Rivera spent 14 years as a defensive assistant before the Panthers hired him in January. So he knows the headaches that multiple offensive formations and specialty packages can cause defensive coordinators.
The Panthers might not be the NFL's best offense in Rivera's first season as a head coach. But they won't be one-dimensional.
"You don't want to line up where everybody knows where you're going. You don't want to always be throwing the ball to the same guy, handing it to the same guy. You also want to create different looks. Stress your opponent a little bit," Rivera said. "That's a big part of what this offense is about."
The Panthers had the NFL's worst offense in 2010 under lame-duck coach John Fox. Fox, now in Denver, angered the front office with his refusal to play Edwards, who led Appalachian State to two national titles as the Mountaineers' quarterback.
But Rivera's staff clearly has gotten the memo about Edwards, and others.
Besides using Edwards as the wildcat, the Panthers have been running the read option with Newton, whose success in the scheme at Auburn helped him win a Heisman Trophy and BCS title in his only season with the Tigers.
Tailback DeAngelo Williams also took snaps at the Wildcat spot Tuesday, while veteran receiver Steve Smith praised Rivera and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski for aligning him in different spots and using him in ways Fox's staff would talk about but not follow through with.
"It's good," Smith said of the changes. "I'm not stationary, standing like the last nine years. I get to move around and play well. And I have some other receivers out there taking the pressure off me."
Edwards, the only player in Division I history to throw for more than 10,000 yards and rush for 4,000, had to be summoned from the sideline Tuesday when the Panthers unveiled the Wildcat in front of a small contingent of fans and media members.
A couple of plays later, the left-handed Edwards uncorked a beautiful spiral that David Clowney pulled down for a 65-yard touchdown catch.
Unlike Fox, Rivera has embraced Edwards' versatility.
"If you can put some doubt in people's minds as to what he's going to do, it's going to help you offensively," Rivera said. "Armanti can become the kind of guy when he comes onto the field it's not always a Wildcat situation. Now you don't know how to prepare for him. One minute the quarterback is under center with Armanti at wide receiver, the next thing you know Armanti is there (at quarterback). Is he going to run it or throw it? It can add to what we want to do offensively."
Rivera, who had defensive coordinator stints in Chicago and San Diego, was asked how much preparation time was added when he faced offenses with specialty schemes such as the Wildcat.
"Too much," Rivera said. "It really does. For a team that may only go (to the Wildcat) one or two or three times, it was a huge distraction."
Now the Panthers want to be the ones causing the distraction.
"I hope the other team is ready," Panthers linebacker James Anderson said. "That presents an extra dimension the other team has to prepare for. I'm glad they're on my team."