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Panthers 2022 season opener countdown: 40 days to go

We’re counting down the days until the Panthers kick off the 2022 season.

NFL: Carolina Panthers Minicamp Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

We’re 40 days away from the Panthers 2022 season opener, so that means today’s countdown piece is devoted to No. 40 on the roster — linebacker Brandon Smith.

The rookie ‘backer Smith comes via the fourth round of the 2022 NFL draft, where the Panthers selected him out of Penn State.

He was formerly a five-star recruit from Louisa County, Virginia, and the first person from Louisa County to be drafted into the NFL.

Smith appeared in 13 games as a true freshman at Penn State in 2019, registering 13 tackles. As a sophomore he started all nine games, recording 37 tackles, two sacks and one interception. And in his junior year, in 2021, Smith started 12 games and recorded 81 tackles and two sacks.

According to back in May, Smith said at the time that much of his focus had been on the weakside linebacker position.

“Really the will linebacker position is mainly what I’ve been working at for the past few days,” he said. “But overall, just making sure I lock in on what everybody’s responsibility is.”

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule told the website that they’re still experimenting with both Smith and rookie defensive end Amare Barno. Barno will likely get to concentrate on pass-rushing while Smith could play a more versatile role.

“We think he’s a guy who can be one of those chess-piece types of players,” Rhule said of Smith. “A linebacker, who can also rush. Fast, athletic. Still a young player. We’ll play him at all three linebacker positions.

“Part of this weekend was looking at him and Barno, seeing how they fit in with us. And we’ll start (Smith) off at linebacker and let him learn that. It’s probably one of the hardest positions to learn, and then see what else he can do.”