Spartanburg, SC – The Carolina Panthers worked out in the rain this morning. But the big story of the day was that Jeff Otah, the injury-plagued offensive tackle is returning to the team after his trade to the New York Jets was voided when Otah failed his physical with New York.
The Panthers can keep Otah on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, activate him, cut him or try to trade him.
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said he expects to meet with Otah Wednesday in Spartanburg, where Otah will undergo a physical. Can a new trade be worked out? Hurney said there were other teams interested before the trade to New York. “There were (teams interested) before, so I don’t know. But I don’t want to talk much about that. We’ll just see.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera is taking a similar attitude. “It’s the way it is. We tried to make a deal. Unfortunately, they didn’t want it. So now we’re back with Jeff. We’ll see him tomorrow. Marty and I will sit down and we’ll visit and we’ll go from there.”
There is a roster spot available for Otah as defensive end/linebacker Jyles Tucker was cut after leaving camp last weekend. Otah is due to make nearly $1.1 million this year.
Oh, did I mention it rained this morning? Truth be told, on my drive from Asheville to Spartanburg, there were several moments where I could not see the road, but as I approached camp, it cleared up. When I got to the field, however, it began to rain harder and harder. Thunder boomed in the background as I watched the kickers early-on to see how the rain might affect their game. Not much, I’m happy to report. In fact, rookie punter Brad Nortman was kicking very well today. He was about 5 to 10 yards longer than backup Nick Harris. And for the first time in camp, there was no wind on the field. Nortman punted nearly 65 yards at times. Free agent placekicker Justin Medlock worked on his field goal kicking, easily picking from 45 yards – in a downpour.
The team spent a lot of time working on the kicking game, and, unfortunately for the fans who came out – in droves – to watch this morning’s practice, the team scheduled practice for the far back fields. There was much less interaction with the fans this morning than in the past three days, something coach Rivera was sorry about, but the practice session was already scheduled and the Panthers do not deviate from it.
The offense worked on Red Zone plays for a while, as Cam Newton worked with receivers Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell and tight ends Greg Olsen and Gary Barnidge. Mike Tolbert was used effectively in the rain at fullback and DeAngelo Williams ran several nice plays also. Tolbert made a nice move on a catch over the middle to get into the end zone. The big men up front gave Newton time to throw and he was able to connect with receivers easily. Newton was accurate in this drill.
Moving from the Red Zone offense to a mid-field offense was a little different. Newton was picked off by defensive end Charles Johnson who put his arms up at the right time. A few plays later, Newton tried a long bomb intended for LaFell, but it was intercepted by cornerback Chris Gamble, as he and the other cornerback, Captain Munnerlyn were all over the receiver.
Running back Jonathan Stewart was hit hard in a team drill and was slow to get up, but he returned to practice quickly.
Early in practice the team staged what looked like a mock fight in the end zone with someone yelling, “It’s a bounty.” Coach Rivera was glad to see the team fooling around a little because, “You want to see energy, it’s a huge thing….it they are having fun, enjoying themselves, they’re competing. They had great tempo.”
Rivera was asked if he was pleased with the play of the offensive tackles, and he said he was very happy. Not a good sign for Otah.
The players are now in the league-mandated 24-hour rest period and will return to action Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m.
QUOTES FROM THE TOP BRASS:
Hurney: On his overall impressions of the first four days of training camp: “It’s been a good camp all the way around.”
Rivera: On practicing in the rain: “This is all part of the game. We practice in the elements; we play in the elements. I thought we handled it pretty well. It got a little chippy today – good and bad – but, we want to see guys fighting and competing and at the same time I want to be smart and take care of the football…(On the weather) There’s nothing we can do about it. These reps are valuable because we will play in the rain at some point of time during the season. We tried to keep the practice as normal as possible.”
On fans: “It was pretty exciting to have them out here again. We really do appreciate them coming out and showing their support, especially in the rain. This type of weather it’s kind of neat to have a big crowd of people.”
On discussing the tackles: “I thought what our four primary tackles have done for us is excellent. Very happy and excited about what they’re doing. Looking forward to our guys getting back on the practice field tomorrow afternoon.”
On a question specifically about Byron Bell: Byron has done a great job. Jordan (Gross) is our left tackle, Byron is our right tackle. I think Garry Williams and Bruce Campbell give us a very good group of guys!”