Sorensen: Armanti Edwards remains a polarizing Panther

July 28, 2013 

— Carolina receiver Armanti Edwards is among the least controversial people in Charlotte. He’s courteous and shy and does not insist on being noticed.

Edwards is noticed. He is among the most controversial athletes in Charlotte.

I get asked why we write about him. We write about him because people read about him.

One of us might have an exclusive the Observer learned story about Steve Smith and Cam Newton playing two-on-two against Michael Jordan and Julius Peppers with Ric Flair, who wields a metal folding chair, serving as guest referee.

Another might have a story in which Edwards talks quietly about entering his fourth season with the Panthers.

The final score: Edwards 1, Smith-Newton-Jordan-Peppers-Flair 0.

Edwards, 25, is controversial because the Panthers gave up a second-round pick so they could select him in the third round of the 2010 draft.

The pick they traded ended up being the first pick in the second round of the 2011 draft. New England invested it on cornerback Ras-I Dowling, who has not been heard from since.

Thousands of Panthers fans blame Edwards for the trade. He still hasn’t apologized.

Thousands more, however, love the trade and believe Edwards would be a star if a certain NFL team used him properly.

Edwards was a celebrity before he turned pro. A former quarterback, he led Appalachian State to two FCS national championships and a monumental victory against Michigan.

After he became a Panther, he was never merely a human being. He was good or evil, consigned to a netherworld in which facts don’t apply.

Example: Edwards often broke free during Panthers practice Saturday, catching several passes and accelerating immediately toward open turf.

Detractors: “Of course he caught passes. It was practice.”

Supporters: “Of course he caught passes. Now when does he supplant Cam Newton at quarterback?”

Last season Edwards returned a punt 69 yards against New Orleans before the punter, Thomas Morstead, ran him out of bounds.

Detractors: He was caught by a punter.

Supporters: The punt return was Carolina’s longest since 2005.

How does he deal with the attention?

“The same way I dealt with it my whole life – high school, college. You know you have to take the good with the bad,” Edwards said Sunday after practice. “For me, personally, I don’t read the papers, I don’t listen to what other people are saying on social media. All that matters to me is what coaches are saying.”

But it’s 2013. Noise is constant.

“You hear sometimes,” Edwards said. “But 95% of the time I stay away from it.”

Since last season, the Panthers have added to their receiving corps free agent Domenik Hixon and return man Ted Ginn Jr. At the top of the depth chart are Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell. Supplementing them are former Panthers draft picks David Gettis, Joe Adams and Kealoha Pilares.

“That’s a lot of receivers,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said.

Edwards, LaFell and Gettis are beginning their fourth season with the Panthers, Pilares his third and Adams his second. Edwards is a veteran. You’ll see younger receivers seek his advice on the Wofford practice field.

More importantly, Edwards no longer is an athlete trying to be a receiver or a quarterback pretending to be one. His cuts are quick, his routes are true and he rarely drops a pass.

“Last year I was comfortable, but at the same time I still had to think,” Edwards said. “Now when I go out there it just feels natural.”

It also feels natural to say that there’s no way Edwards makes this roster.

It felt natural to say that last season and the season before, too.

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