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How long before Panthers bring Hill up?

9/4/2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- While Stephen Hill was blaming New York media for getting cut by the Jets, media covering the Carolina Panthers debated how long it would take the wide receiver to be activated to the 53-man roster.

Popular opinion? It won't be long.

 The Panthers signed the Jets' 2012 second-round pick to the practice squad on Tuesday. Practice squads typically are filled by undrafted players, not the 43rd overall selection.

To Hill's credit, he has taken the demotion well.

"It's just a step back, but I can take some more steps forward," he said Wednesday. "I'm just going to take this and run with it. I'm ready to try my best to get on that 53-man roster."

The Panthers were familiar with the former Georgia Tech star long before he was cut. They used one of their 30 visits for draft-eligible players to work him out in Charlotte two years ago.

What's not to like? At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Hill has all the physical attributes Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman looks for. Hill is also fast. His 4.36 time in the 40-yard dash tied for the fastest among wide receivers at the 2012 combine.

If there's one thing Carolina's rebuilt wide-receiver corps lacks, it's elite speed.

Hill's issue in New York was inconsistency. To be specific, he dropped too many passes.

Hill was quick to remind there are receivers on other NFL rosters with more drops than him. Count Brandon LaFell, Carolina's No. 2 receiver last season and now a member of the New England Patriots, among those.

LaFell had a team-best eight drops last season and 15 in four years.

Hill's agent, Alan Herman, said his client didn't get a fair shake in New York, saying the inconsistencies the team had at quarterback were the biggest issue. Hill didn't blame the quarterbacks as much as he did the media.

He says he's ready to move on. Having the opportunity to work with Carolina wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl, one of the best technicians in the game during his 17 years as a player, should be a plus.

Proehl helped turn around Ted Ginn Jr.'s career last season. Ginn, now at Arizona, went from two catches with San Francisco in 2012 to 36 for 556 yards and five touchdowns at Carolina last season.

Hill doesn't have that far to go. In his two seasons with the Jets, he caught 45 passes for 594 yards and four touchdowns.

He can be the deep threat Ginn was. Only undrafted rookie Philly Brown has elite speed among the five receivers on Carolina's current 53-man roster. And Brown is there more for his abilities as a kick returner than a receiver. He has troubles with drops, too.

"He can run -- 4.3 is pretty fast -- and he's a big, physical guy," backup quarterback Derek Anderson said of Hill. "Now we'll teach him and get out of him what we can."

Hill won't be moved to the 53-man roster for Sunday's opener at Tampa Bay. Coach Ron Rivera made that clear, reminding Hill has a lot to learn about his new scheme.

But it wouldn't be a reach to suggest Hill could move up by the second or third week. You don't sign a second-round pick to leave him on the practice squad.

"We were really the only ones who showed interest in him," Rivera said. "So hopefully, that means we’ll get a nice long look at him. We'll work him and see how he'll potentially fit us. And if the opportunity arises to bring him up, we will."