CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -Brett Basanez gets accused by his Carolina Panthers teammates of being the teacher's pet around the coaches.
He's one of the first to arrive each morning for meetings and among the last to leave each afternoon after practice. Few players watch more film, and Basanez always seems to have a smile on his face.
But after spending his rookie year mostly on the practice squad and last year on injured reserve, Basanez faces a critical week.
The preseason finale is Thursday at Pittsburgh. Final cuts are two days later. The third-string Basanez could play the entire second half against the Steelers, and how he performs could determine if the Panthers keep two or three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.
``This is my third year here, I feel like a Panther,'' Basanez said. ``I feel like part of the family. I love the people here. My wife and I moved here.''
But with Jake Delhomme and backup Matt Moore locked into the top two spots, Basanez's future is uncertain.
The Panthers kept only two QBs in 2006, and had only two after final cuts last year until they picked up the undrafted rookie Moore off waivers from Dallas. With the Panthers likely keeping Rhys Lloyd as a kickoff specialist, the extra roster spot will have to come from somewhere.
``We're not really pretty set on anything,'' coach John Fox said.
Basanez, who went undrafted out of Northwestern, was cut by Carolina as a rookie in 2006. But the Panthers, intrigued by his potential, signed him to the practice squad.
A torn ligament in his right wrist suffered in a preseason game last year cost him a tremendous opportunity. With Delhomme and backup David Carr getting hurt, Basanez was walking around in a cast when he likely would have gotten the call instead of 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde and Moore late in the season.
But Basanez, ever the optimist, believes being around the ancient Testaverde for a couple of months has made him better prepared this preseason.
``Just knowledge. And I think the thing I need to keep reminding myself is with knowledge comes simplicity,'' Basanez said. ``That's something that Vinny really hammered in and Jake's been hammering into me this year so far.
``You may know the playbook, but you need to know when to keep it simple. You need to know when to throw the hitch. Even if you think something might be there on the other side, throw the hitch, move the chains.''
Basanez has seen limited time in preseason games, completing 7 of 9 passes for 54 yards, one interception and a passer rating of 52.1. But with fourth-stringer Lester Ricard waived on Monday, Basanez will likely see plenty of time against the Steelers. He'll either win a roster spot or hopefully get some resume film for other teams.
``You want to get good film because you want to stay here,'' Basanez said. ``But obviously the business side of the NFL is not like that.''
If Basanez needs any advice on how not to play in the final preseason game with a job on the line, he can ask another undrafted QB. Delhomme cringed Tuesday when asked about his early days in New Orleans.
``The fourth preseason game I played awful because I put so much pressure on myself to do well,'' Delhomme said. ``I played terrible in 1999 and the next year it was the same situation and my attitude was, ``I'm going out and playing.' I played so much better. I won a job in 2000 and lost one in 1999.''
Basanez insists he'll be relaxed Thursday, even if his job is on the line.
``I don't put all this pressure on myself saying 'Oh, I've done all of this and what happens if?''' Basanez said. ``I just want to go out there and play the game. Jake always says, we're grown men playing a game we love.
``It's a great opportunity, so just go out and flick it around.''

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