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Panthers long ago narrowed plans

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There are a lot of reports out there saying the Carolina Panthers are still in the process of “narrowing down’’ their list of candidates for the No. 1 pick in tonight’s draft.

I don’t think that’s an entirely accurate portrayal of what’s really the situation. Yes, that’s what the Panthers are saying and I’d expect nothing less from them. There’s no reason for them to come out and announce the pick before they’re on the clock. The labor uncertainty and the possibility of another team making an overwhelming trade offer means it’s wise for the Panthers to leave the door open for anything until the moment they have to close the door.

But do you really think Marty Hurney, Ron Rivera and Jerry Richardson are sitting around Bank of America Stadium debating the merits of Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Marcell Dareus and Patrick Peterson? If they are, maybe the wrong guy (John Fox) went in the purge after last year’s 2-14 season. If the Panthers aren’t already pretty sure who they’re taking at No. 1, they’re more dysfunctional than anyone could imagine.

Seriously, the decision was made days or weeks ago and all signs continue to point to that decision being making Newton the top pick. Yes, there still is room for a wild scenario or two that could change things. But unless something dramatic happens in the next eight hours, Newton’s going to be the pick. The Panthers narrowed it down to him long ago.