Panthers' PJ Walker gearing up for first start of season after contemplating NFL future

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In the offseason, the Carolina Panthers traded for Baker Mayfield and drafted Matt Corral. They had four quarterbacks in the room at one point, including Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker.

The Panthers acquired Darnold via trade last year, leaving Walker to think that he was on the outside looking in.

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Carolina Panthers quarterback PJ Walker (11) during an NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 11, 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

Carolina Panthers quarterback PJ Walker (11) during an NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 11, 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
(John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

However, Corral suffered a Linsfranc injury that ended his season, and Darnold suffered a high-ankle sprain that put him on IR. That shot Walker up the depth chart — but on Sunday, Mayfield injured his foot and is likely out this upcoming Sunday.

In around six months, Walker went from odd man out to starting quarterback.

“Over the summer, I had a different perspective on this whole situation,” Walker said on Wednesday. “I thought about it for about a week. After that week, it is what it is. I was still going to be able to go out in the preseason and play, made the best of that. When I did get my reps in training camp, whatever opportunity, I made the best of it. It was a lot going through my mind because I felt like I could play. I felt like I was good enough to be the backup here. But things happen. It’s a business. At the end of the day, I never stopped my approach of going out there and handling my business.”

Safe to say, it’s been a wild ride for Walker this year. The last week hasn’t made things any more normal.

The Panthers fired Matt Rhule on Monday, who was Walker’s head coach at Temple.

“We know at the end of the day we’ve got a job to do. And if we don’t do our job, we’ll be gone too,” he said. “You’ve got to win in this league. If that’s not getting done, something’s got to change.”

Head coach Matt Rhule of the Temple Owls talks with P.J. Walker #11 during play against the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the second half at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on Nov. 6, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. 

Head coach Matt Rhule of the Temple Owls talks with P.J. Walker #11 during play against the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the second half at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on Nov. 6, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. 
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

MATT RHULE’S FIRING FROM PANTHERS UNDERSCORES DIFFICULTY COLLEGE FOOTBALL HEAD COACHES HAVE IN NFL

Walker has two NFL starts under his belt — he won both — after shining in the short-lived XFL in 2020, which was forced to cease operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a small sample size, he’s gotten it done, and interim head coach Steve Wilks has no reason he can’t do it again.

“I’m confident in PJ, and I think the players are confident in PJ,” Wilks said. “This is one of those situations where, you’re sitting where we are right now this season, and everybody could start pressing and trying to do things outside the system. So I foresee that as part of my conversation this week.

PJ Walker #11 of the Carolina Panthers attempts a pass against the Washington Commanders during the second half of the preseason game at FedExField on Aug. 13, 2022 in Landover, Maryland.

PJ Walker #11 of the Carolina Panthers attempts a pass against the Washington Commanders during the second half of the preseason game at FedExField on Aug. 13, 2022 in Landover, Maryland.
(Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

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The 1-4 Panthers travel to Los Angeles to face the defending Super Bowl champion Rams on Sunday.

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