SPARTANBURG, SC – The Carolina Panthers concluded their training camp at Wofford College Wednesday morning with a well-paced practice. Work continued on red zone plays, kickoffs, returns and, in the last hour, the team scrimmaged. While dropped passes continue to be a factor during practices, take nothing away from the defensive play of the Panthers.
There were several interceptions thrown during the scrimmage, but the offense did manage to complete several long pass plays.
Noticeably absent from the drills were linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis. Both players are coming off season-ending injuries in 2011 and both suffered setbacks keeping them out of camp for most practices.
Beason pulled a hamstring – an injury he says resulted from overcompensating for his surgically repaired Achilles.
Davis, coming off three ACL surgeries on his right knee, strained his left calf. He has resumed individual drills, and coach Ron Rivera hopes he can make a full return next week.
Beason is trying to get ready for the August 26 preseason game at the Meadowlands against the New York Jets.
“That was the timetable we set when I first did it. Obviously, if I don’t feel 100 percent, 90 percent’s not going to get me on the field for that (Jets) game,” Beason said.
But Beason said he would definitely be back for the regular season opener at Tampa Bay. “For sure,” he said.
In another health development, Rivera said DT Andre Neblett has an undisclosed medical condition. Neblett, who worked as a starter the first part of camp, is suspended for the first four regular-season games after testing positive for a banned substance.
Players make themselves available to the media and fans after practice. We caught up with wide receiver Steve Smith who said the offense is retaining much more of the playbook this year as compared to last season.
Speaking about the differences in training in Charlotte versus training at camp at Wofford College, Smith said, “There are no distractions (here). You get to see how the guy next to you is. You see how deep-rooted he is. At home, there are distractions. Here, you get the opportunity to focus on football with no distractions. The in-laws come in town and it has nothing to do with you. You know, the baby wakes up, you can’t deal with it, you have to be at work, so that’s the good part (of being sequestered in camp).
“Now you go back to that (home) environment. Training camp is where they (the coaches) break you down…during the season they build you back up. And, hopefully in the playoffs, you have that opportunity to put everything you’ve learned in the last four months in there and you’re on full go, so hopefully we’ll have that opportunity. We’ve set that foundation here in training camp and we have the opportunity to get it going during the regular season and then hit on all cylinders in the playoffs and that’s how you make a statement that your teammate (center Ryan Kalil took out a full-page ad in the Charlotte Observer just before camp opened where he promised the fans the Panthers would win the Super Bowl) has made into fruition.
Smith on how the team is dealing with the high expectations for the upcoming season: “Every team lines up in training camp and every team believes they will be the team holding the Lombardi Trophy and…there’s only one winner. The best team is only at the end and if you’re not holding that trophy everything else you did you pretty much fell short.”
Smith on the difference between last year’s camp and this year’s camp: “The offense is retaining information better than in 2011 when the team was force-fed Rob Chudzinski‘s playbook (after the lockout).”
Smith on new receiver Louis Murphy: “I think he did real good. He showed that he has some big play ability and I think he’s going to be good for us. I think he’s also going to push some other guys, you know, and he’s hungry. This is an opportunity for him. He came in and said ‘I need this” and when you hear that from a guy and then he comes out and does it, well, we need more guys like that.”
The Panthers will host the Miami Dolphins on Friday night at Bank of America Stadium. It appears they will be facing rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who may be given the start. They are also game-planning a defense to face former Panthers quarterback Matt Moore, who is expected to play at least a quarter. I would believe the Panthers defense is chomping at the bit to welcome Tannehill to the NFL.
The HBO crew filming “Hard Knocks” will be in Charlotte to document the game. If Tannehill does indeed start, you can look forward to a lot of him in next week’s show.