Spartanburg, SC – The Carolina Panthers worked hard on Sunday and for an especially long time – two hours and 45 minutes. And while Saturday was more like a celebration that football is back, Sunday was a work day. Fans lined the walkway from the locker room to the practice fields searching for autographs or maybe just a few words from players. But when practice started at 6:00 p.m., it was all work.
The team practiced without pads again, but beginning Monday night, they will be in full gear. Sunday night was spent working on a lot of individual drills within units, as well as running plays. Over the course of the evening, the Panthers worked on fumble recoveries, linebackers stripping the ball from runners and recovering the ball afterwards, high-stepping drills followed by simulated interceptions (came in handy later in practice) and, of course, kicking.
During the scrimmaging portion, RB Jonathan Stewart and CB Captain Munnerlyn got into a brief shoving match, but that’s just part of camp. Expect more as the offense and defense get tired of practicing against each other.
PK Justin Medlock, a free-agent with experience in the Canadian Football League, had a nice evening, hitting 4-of-4 field goals from 46 yards and longer. Incumbent Olindo Mare did not attempt any field goals on Sunday.
I know it’s early, but QB Cam Newton struggled early on Sunday evening with his long passes. He overthrew receivers several times, and when he did hit them, passes were dropped. When it was not his turn to run the offense, Newton was studying play sheets and keeping his arm warm by throwing on the sidelines. Must have worked because as the night grew darker, he seemed to find his range and he was the Cam of last year…accurate and commanding. And, once again, towards the end of practice, he tossed a ball into a small group of fans in the end zone.
Back-up QB Derek Anderson look professional and competent in running the second team, but Newton is THE man.
WE Seji Ajirotutu dropped a pass beautifully thrown by third-string QB Jimmy Clausen as he was wide open. The Panthers need to get this right.
New Panthers OT Bruce Campbell is adjusting to his new team. “Things are different here…they are much more organized here.” Campbell was with the Oakland Raiders during the past two seasons after coming out early from the University of Maryland in 2009.
WR Brandon LaFell made a couple of nice catches over the middle in traffic and made a great “football move” after catching a ball on an out pattern to extend the yardage.
WR Steve Smith made several sliding catches along the sidelines as the evening wore on.
LB Thomas Davis was favoring his right leg and only practiced for one play. He is recovering from his third ACL surgery. He was walking around during the rest of practice, and he was taking part in Monday morning’s walk-through.
LB James Anderson made a nice interception over the middle against Newton early in practice.
I think the Panthers have a real placekicking battle on their hands. While incumbent Mare missed on Saturday night, Medlock did not…and Medlock’s kicks looked to be longer as well. This is one of the big stories that will play out during camp. Only one will stay…kind of like the U.S. Gymnastics individual’s situation Sunday night in London when the reigning world champion, Jordan Wieber, did NOT get into the individual championship bracket. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is.