When the Panthers began training camp last year, Ron Rivera held a dry-run practice in Spartanburg just to make sure players and coaches knew where and how to line up for drills.
Because of the lockout, the first time Rivera and his staff were on the field with their players was on the first day at Wofford, having missed offseason workouts, organized training activities (OTAs) and minicamp because of the labor dispute.
Rivera feels much more prepared for his second season.
“The biggest thing is we had an offseason. We had an opportunity to have workouts, OTAs and then minicamp. And I think that gives us a huge advantage compared to last year,” Rivera said Wednesday. “I think the thing that’s really good for us is we’re able to see where we are with our players, where we are with each position.”
In addition to rookie camp, OTAs and minicamp, the Panthers held a three-day practice session this week in Charlotte for first-year players and selected veterans, including those coming back from injuries.
Rivera also asked the quarterbacks to participate to develop timing with the young receivers, and so the Panthers would have someone under center during drills. Cam Newton, last year’s Rookie of the Year, Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen all practiced this week.
“It was good to see our quarterbacks get in and get loosened up and get into things,” Rivera said. “And it was good for us to see the guys that were coming off injured reserved and coming off missing OTAs and minicamp.”
READY FOR THE REAL THING: One of those coming off injured reserve is Pro Bowl linebacker Jon Beason, who was out last season after tearing his Achilles in a Week 1 loss at Arizona. Beason said his foot felt good after three practices, but the real test will come when he puts on pads in Spartanburg.
“I haven’t tackled anybody. It’s hard to simulate that through training. But based on everything we’re doing out here I feel great,” Beason said. “We’re going to be smart about it in camp, obviously. You get beat up in camp in the day-to-day grind. But I’ll be ready to go come Friday.”
EXTRA POINTS: The Panthers had five defensive linemen returning from injuries at this week’s sessions – tackles Terrell McClain (knee), Frank Kearse (knee), Ron Edwards (triceps) and Andre Neblett (labrum) and end Charles Johnson (knee). A sixth – tackle Sione Fua – was on IR at the end of last season with a hamstring injury, but was able to participate in minicamp.
The Panthers report to Spartanburg on Friday. Their first practice is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Gibbs Stadium, with a “Back to Football” party scheduled to begin at 4:30.