There has been a lot of talk this offseason about Panthers quarterback Cam Newton avoiding the sophomore slump.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesnt want to go backward in his second season, either.
Rivera hopes increased competition at most positions creates a sense of urgency as the Panthers begin training camp with a Saturday evening practice at Woffords Gibbs Stadium.
You say what positions are comfortable? Hopefully, none of them are, Rivera said. Cam said it best. He said, I need to make sure and keep pushing myself to be the best I can be.
Quarterback is one position where the starter is safe. But Rivera indicated both kicking positions are up for grabs.
Rookie Brad Nortman and veteran Nick Harris will compete to replace former punter Jason Baker, who was released in a cost-cutting move. Olindo Mare, who missed two, late-game field goals last season, will be challenged by CFL veteran Justin Medlock.
I think the only one thats not competitive is our long snapper. I think J.J. (Jansen) is pretty solid in that position unless I come out of retirement, said Rivera, a Chicago Bears linebacker for nine seasons.
Hamstrung: For receiver David Gettis, reporting to Wofford was like returning to the scene of a crime. Gettis sophomore season ended in Spartanburg last summer when he tore the ACL in his left knee running a route at practice.
Its been a long time for me. Its been about a year. Kind of get back to the place where it ended not-so-well for me last year, Gettis said. Its a blessing and its what Ive been dreaming about since it happened Just wait until camp next year. Now its here. So Im excited.
Gettis has not made it all the way back, yet. He begins camp on the physically unable to perform list not for his knee, but his hamstring, which he tweaked while training after minicamp.
But Gettis expects to be back in a couple of days, saying the Panthers were being cautious by placing him on the PUP list.
They were just kind of looking out for me, which is great. Thats all that was, he said. Weve been working really hard, (with the) training staff. Ill be out there.
First-day duties: Rivera said everyone on the 90-man roster was in camp Friday, when players took physicals and did a conditioning test. Rivera said the test is position-specific, and does not involve a series of timed sprints.
Were trying to gauge where they are through different things, whether it be straight-line running or cutting and stuff like that. What we dont want to do is kill them and bomb them and ruin them for the next four or five days, Rivera said. We want to be able to gauge it and say, This guy is not at the level he needs to be. Okay, well do some extra stuff with him, or these guys are exactly where they need to be.
• Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith likes to make an entrance. Smith, always the last offensive player to be introduced at home games, also is always the last player to arrive at Wofford on reporting day. But Smith was a welcome sight for the waiting media horde on a day when quarterback Cam Newton and center/prognosticator Ryan Kalil were not available.
• Guys need their creature comforts. Thats why linebacker Thomas Davis showed up at his Wofford dorm room with a massaging recliner and others were carrying in armloads of blankets and pillows.
This is our conditioning drill, tight end Greg Olsen said as he headed into the dorm with his arms full of bedding and other essentials.
• Running back DeAngelo Williams should be fresh when practice begins Saturday night. While others walked, Williams scooted around campus on a Segway.
• Reserve quarterback Derek Anderson spent part of the offseason playing golf at home in Oregon. Two weeks ago, Anderson made a hole-in-one.
• The Panthers are expecting a nice crowd for the first practice of training camp. Tents have been erected around the stadium and the team is expected to entertain a number of guests who are making the trip from Charlotte to share in the start.
GETTING TO KNOW ...
Linebacker Kenny Onatolu
Height: 6-2 Weight: 235
NFL experience: Played three seasons with Minnesota after spending two years with the CFLs Edmonton Eskimos.
The scoop: Onatolu was one of several free agents the Panthers signed to beef up their special teams. Onatolu was a special teams mainstay in Minnesota, where he played for Panthers special teams coordinator Brian Murphy. Onatolu, 29, had a team-best 24 special teams tackles his first season with the Vikings in 2009.
Bet you didnt know: His twin brother, Taiwo, is an assistant football coach at Missouri State.
THREE QUESTIONS WITH ...
Linebacker Luke Kuechly
Q: Its your first time at Wofford. What do you think?
Its football now. The past couple of months have been everything getting ready for this, the combine, the different visits and things like that. Now we actually get to play football. I think it will probably take a couple of days to get acclimated to whats going on. I tried to walk around a little this morning and see where the fields are, where the locker rooms are, where the equipment room is. At (Boston College), you were familiar with where everything was. Now its time to do that all over again.
Q: What did people tell you about Spartanburg?
Hot. Make sure youre ready for the heat. Its going to be hot. But they said the dorm will be cool. Thats one thing thats nice. If you can sleep at night, that helps a lot. The air conditioning works real well. Thats definitely a big thing for us.
Q: A lot of teams no longer go off-site for camp. Based on your college experience, how do you think this helps?
At BC you were all by yourself. Down here were going to be all by ourselves. Its going to be hot. Its going to be long. But you know everyone is around and its good to get started.