Carolina Panthers: Rookie Barner hopes to make impact

SPARTANBURG, SC – After five days of training camp, Carolina Panthers’ rookie running back Kenjon Barner is learning a lot about the NFL. And, like the rest of the team, will finally get a 24-hour break as mandated by the new CBA. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound speedster from the University of Oregon is working hard every day on the job to be more versatile.

“I’m learning to be patient and letting things develop rather than trying to force the issue,” the sixth round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft said. “I’m working on pass protection and changing my running style a little.”

His pass protection is a concern, but Barner said he is “working on technique, having the right body position so I can be in the position to strike rather than be hit; just little things like that. I’m picking up things and it’s definitely a work in progress but I’m definitely picking it up.”

Rookie running back Kenjon Barner (25) catches a pass from Cam Newton (1) during practice. Photo courtesy Carolina Panthers.

Rookie running back Kenjon Barner (25) catches a pass from Cam Newton (1). Photo courtesy Carolina Panthers

Barner is used to fast-tempo practices and games, having played under (now Philadelphia Eagles) coach Chip Kelly in Eugene. “Our camp is playing at a fast tempo, but we ran 130-140 plays in an hour and-a-half at Oregon, and so everything we did was go, go, go, go, go. This is definitely a fast tempo camp here from what I’ve heard from friends (at other camps) and their practices.”

With the help of not only his coaching staff, but also from fellow players, Barner is learning new tricks he will need to compete in the NFL. The Panthers’ veteran running backs are helping him as much as they can. “(Mike) Tolbert talks to me a lot, DeAngelo (Williams) talks to me a lot, T.D. (linebacker Thomas Davis) helps me. A lot of guys chip in and kind of help me give me different pointers about technique and where I need to be. It’s definitely a good feeling knowing I’ve got guys who are willing to help.

“Now I’m tweaking my running, getting a little more physical than when I was at Oregon.” Barner knows being versatile will help him contribute to the Panthers.  He hopes to continue to show his versatility by working not only at his natural running back position, but also as a kick returner.

“I try and do as much as I can. No matter what special team is out there, I want to show them I can play on any special team they have. I have the ability to perform on it.”

The Panthers have a loaded, veteran backfield, (Williams, Tolbert and  the still-injured Jonathan Stewart are in place), but Barner says he’s used to it. Oregon was loaded with outstanding runners in the backfield and he faces the same challenge now. “At college, I had LaGarrett Blount, LeMichael James, Andre Crenshaw…a lot of guys when I first moved to that position (from high school).  Everyone has been asking how  I feel about the crowded backfield. I don’t feel any particular way about it. I’m just going to continue to work hard and continue to show these coaches I can play and that I deserve to be here. At the end of the day,  I’ll look up and see where I’m at. As far as the backfield being crowded, it doesn’t mean anything to me. You can’t worry about it…I just have to do my own thing.”

Barner likes what he has seen from the rest of the Panthers team. “I like this team a lot, especially with the rookie class that came in. I’m close to these guys and have two great friends. This is a really good group of people to be around.”

CAMP NOTES:

*Day five began at 9:20 a.m. and ended around 11:50 a.m. when placekicker Graham Gano split the uprights with a 50-yard field goal. The team erupted with cheers. The reason? His field goal meant the players did not have to attend evening meetings. If he missed, they would be stuck inside. The Panthers will resume their drills on Thursday.

*Cam Newton threw two interceptions, and nearly a third, today. This was his worst practice of training camp. His first was picked off by cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who returned it for a touchdown. The ball was intended to go to Armanti Edwards on an out route, but Munnerlyn broke in front of Edwards for the pick.

*Coach Ron Rivera said, “He missed a couple of throws, he was a little bit late coming out (and) throwing to the sideline one time. And the other time, he made a secondary read and tried to come back to it. He’s going to have to speed that up. And those are things that will have to be corrected.”

*Several veteran players were given the day off today including wideout Steve Smith, center Ryan Kalil and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards.