SPARTANBURG, S.C. Linebacker Thomas Davis and wide receiver Steve Smith were both given the evening practice off Monday. It was the Panthers first practice in pads and with Davis coming off his third ACL surgery, head coach Ron Rivera said the team wants to be careful during training camp.
Smith, a 12-year veteran, was given a breather.
As for how Davis has looked to this point, Rivera said, Hes on track and doing a lot of good things. It looks like his knee is fine.
SPECIAL DAY: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley attended practice Monday evening as part of Carolina Panthers Day, which she proclaimed Monday to be.
Haley, wearing a blue Panthers shirt, thanked team owner Jerry Richardson for bringing his NFL dream to life and for giving it strong ties to South Carolina, where every training camp has been held and the Panthers played their first season in 1995.
Haley and Richardson both spoke to the crowd of several hundred fans gathered on a hillside, then both took their time signing autographs and visiting with the spectators.
Richardson commented on center Ryan Kalils full-page ad in the Observer last week that promised a Super Bowl title.
He didnt say anything detrimental about anybody else, Richardson said. He just thanked his coaches and teammates and the fans and entire organization. I thought it was pretty cool.
REMEMBERING MURDOCK: For the second time in two years, Panthers defensive end Eric Norwood struggled to process the suicide of a former college teammate after Titans receiver O.J. Murdock died of a self-inflicted gunshot Monday morning in his Tampa hometown.
Norwood played at South Carolina with Murdock and Broncos receiver Kenny McKinley, who shot himself in 2010.
Its crazy when you look at. It may have been different circumstances for the both of them and what they were going through, Norwood said. But its just crazy that two guys from the same era, two wide receivers who were pretty good friends. I still havent really processed it all.
Norwood said he had kept in touch with Murdock, who was 25, via Twitter. Murdock, an undrafted free agent in 2011 who missed last season with an Achilles injury, did not report to the Titans training camp last week due to what the team called personal reasons.
I send my condolences out to his family, friends, the whole Murdock family, Norwood said. He was a real good guy. He was always smiling, just like Kenny. As far as I know, the time he was there at South Carolina, he encouraged people. Even when he wasnt playing, he was just upbeat.
SAY GOODBYE TO: The Panthers cut Jyles Tucker on Monday after the veteran linebacker/defensive end left training camp after only two days. Tucker played for Panthers coach Ron Rivera in San Diego but was out of football last season after the Chargers released him.
It was something he had to. So well leave it at that and go from there, Rivera said. It was strictly a personal instance. Theres nothing bad, nothing like that.
Tuckers agent, David Canter, confirmed the move.
A team source said Tucker had discussed the possibility of retiring before reporting to camp.
Tucker, 28, signed a one-year contract for the veteran minimum of $700,000 during the offseason, and was expected to add depth and versatility. Rivera recently mentioned Tucker as a player who could play outside linebacker when the Panthers line up in a 3-4.
The Panthers have not announced a corresponding roster move.
• One of the subtle fashion trends among the Panthers this preseason is the popularity of floppy white hats worn by some players and coaches when theyre outside. They look like something old fishermen might wear, but theyre missing the lures pinned into the fabric.
• As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Panthers will have 24 hours off starting Tuesday afternoon. Theyll be free until meetings begin again Wednesday afternoon.
• While his team was stretching before its evening workout, Rivera was on the sideline throwing passes with linebacker James Anderson. Rivera throws a nice spiral.
• Rookie cornerback Josh Norman left practice early with a left hamstring injury. Rivera said trainers are optimistic but wont know the severity of the injury until Tuesday.
• Highlight play of the first padded practice? Probably the long pass from Cam Newton to free agent Jared Green, who used his speed to blow by all the defenders to haul in the bomb.
Moments later, Green chased down linebacker Jon Beason from behind. Beason had snatched a deflected Newton pass out of the air and was returning it when Green ran him down.
• Best hit: Backup center Jeff Byers knockdown block of linebacker Jason Williams.
• Olindo Mare handled the field goal duties during practice and was perfect on every attempt.
• With Smith getting the night off, it meant more opportunities for Brandon LaFell, Seyi Ajirotutu and Louis Murphy, who are in the mix for the No. 2 receiving job with LaFell the leader.
THREE QUESTIONS WITH .
Cornerback Chris Gamble
Q: After a tough individual season in 2010, you bounced back nicely last year. How do you build on that this season?
I wanted to come back and do what I know I can do. I tried to do it last year, and Im going to try to keep doing it this year. Just do what I can do and have fun with it at the same time.
Q: How gratifying was it to answer your critics with your performance?
It was nice, but I want to win. I want to do my part, but I want to win at the same time. I just feel like if you win, everything will be fine. I feel like if I do my job, well have a chance to win.
Q: You didnt make the Pro Bowl last year but you had your supporters, including head coach Ron Rivera, who said you deserved a spot. How did that make you feel?
People said that, but I feel like I could have done better. I could have had more picks. Im my biggest critic.
I know what to expect out of myself and go out and do what Ive got to do. This year Im going to go out there and have a chip on my shoulder again and try to make the Pro Bowl this year.
GETTING TO KNOW
CENTER JEFF BYERS
Height: 6-4, Weight: 310
College: Southern Cal
NFL experience: Byers was signed by Seattle as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and eventually wound up with the Denver Broncos later that season. After being waived by Denver last September, Byers was signed to the Panthers practice squad and moved up from the practice squad in December.
The scoop: Byers is one of many players fighting for a spot on the 53-player roster. He dressed for one Panthers game late last season, and he could provide depth along the offensive line.
Bet you didnt know: As a freshman, he backed up Panthers Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil at Southern Cal.