Anderson reached a deal with the Panthers and arrived on the field midway through Carolina's practice Monday night. Like other free agents, Anderson won't start practicing until Thursday per collective bargaining rules. But after getting cut by the Cardinals soon after the NFL lockout ended, Anderson was happy to have a job.
"I don't think anybody knows the answer to what's going to go on the next four or five weeks," Anderson said. "Every training camp I always go into like I'm going to play. I think that's what kept me going, I step in there and say, 'OK, I'm going to play,' even if it's not realistic."
And it might not be at Carolina for the 28-year-old Anderson, who will go up against Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 draft pick Cam Newton at quarterback.
Anderson said his role is to help Newton and second-year players Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike adjust to the system of new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. Anderson and Chudzinski were together at Cleveland in 2007 and 2008 when the unknown quarterback from Oregon State excelled.
Anderson threw for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2007 and was picked for the Pro Bowl. His stats fell off the next season and by 2010, Anderson had signed with Arizona. He continued to struggle with the Cardinals and, once the lockout ended, knew he would be cut.
Anderson wasn't sure what was next until the Panthers called.
"I'm obviously excited about being here and being back with 'Chud' and help out with Cam and Jimmy," Anderson said. "To grow myself and help them with things in this offense that I've done in the past. Things that I've learned from my mistakes, and pass that on."
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Anderson will be an invaluable resource for his young quarterbacks. That doesn't mean Anderson shouldn't push to keep Newton and Clausen holding clipboards when the season starts.
Anderson "understands the situation and the set of circumstances," Rivera said. "But at the same, I told Derek that's no reason to accept a back seat. So I think his whole approach, his whole attitude about everything is he's going to come in and compete."
Anderson, in a white Panthers t-shirt and black shorts with his No. 3 on the side, was talked about as the veteran quarterback Rivera and Chudzinski hoped to bring in the past few days. Anderson met with Panthers officials early Monday and finished up the agreement shortly before taking the practice field. Anderson immediately ran to the other quarterbacks as they shuffled in out of drills on Carolina's first practice in pads.
"Coming out here was good, reading plays that are familiar to me and just talking football with them," he said.
Chudzinski's offense has changed a bit since their days at Cleveland, Anderson said. There are enough similarities, though, that Anderson's confident he can make a difference with the Panthers, both as teacher and player.
"I'm not satisfied with the way I've played in the last three years," he said. "For me, it's just kind of getting the mind back in it and functioning."