SPARTANBURG The Panthers place-kicking competition heated up Saturday when veteran incumbent Olindo Mare missed 2 of his 4 field goal attempts and was booed after a 50-yarder fell short.
Meanwhile, newcomer Justin Medlock went 3-of-4. His lone miss was a 50-yarder that hit the left upright.
Both kickers were 1-of-2 from 50 yards. Mare, who had three kicks blocked in 2011, had another one blocked Saturday.
But coach Ron Rivera said the protection was to blame. Defensive tackle Terrell McClain, lined up as a wing-back, allowed cornerback R.J. Stanford to come off the edge and smother the 41-yard attempt.
We put Terrell McClain in there, tried to put a bigger body and see how that worked, Rivera said. Obviously, it didnt work. So well look to do something different.
Stanford said he came close to blocking a kick last week.
Ive been just off. So when my number was called, I was like, Ive got to get there, Stanford said. It just opened up and I laid out for it.
Mare, beginning his 16th season, made 22 of 28 field goals last season. But he fell out of favor with many fans after missing a pair of short, fourth-quarter field goals in home losses to Minnesota and Atlanta.
Rivera has indicated he will put more weight on how the kickers perform in exhibitions.
In the big circus of everything, you have to focus, Rivera said. We have a long way to go and we will get better.
NOSE FOR THE BALL: Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly took a brief respite when Jonathan Stewarts backflap caught him across the nose and caused it to bleed. He returned soon after with a helmet shield, and later picked off Cam Newton on a 30-yard throw across the middle. The career-leading tackler in the ACC, Kuechly had experience at Boston College dropping into coverage.
We played a lot of zone coverage at school, so its something Im familiar with, he said. The way we run our defense and the zone drops is similar to what we did at BC. So its pretty familiar to me. Its not something thats vastly different.
TAKE A BREAK: Rivera gave two veterans the day off cornerback Chris Gamble and receiver Steve Smith. Gamble felt tightness in his groin, and trainers did not want to risk injury.
We just thought it would be a good chance to give him a day off, Rivera said. Steve was purely precautionary. Steve didnt need to practice. Were trying to cycle him with days off, and this just happened to be one of the days he was off.
Lee Ziemba, a second-year offensive tackle from Auburn, will see sports orthopedist James Andrews on Monday after injuring his knee last week. Rivera said Ziembas injury involves his ACL, but the team wants another opinion on the extent of it.
NESS MAKING A NAME: Newly acquired cornerback Nate Ness recorded two interceptions, continuing to impress Rivera after putting on a Panthers jersey for the first time Thursday. Ness, who has been on four active rosters in three seasons, intercepted Jimmy Clausen late in the scrimmage near the goal line and began his sprint to the end zone.
Panthers lined the field near the 50-yard line, and Ness was expected to pull up once he reached the wall of players. But the corner went through the line and found paydirt as Newton playfully gave chase for a few yards.
Nate fits the mold of the type of corner were looking for big, long-armed corner that plays with vision, Rivera said. We want our corners to play with their eyes on the ball. He seemed to have success doing that... Hes been working very well for us.
• With seconds remaining in the scrimmages first quarter, Newton threw the ball out of the end zone to allow one more play. Newton didnt necessarily zip the ball into the stands, but a fan on the front row made the grab and the crowd jeered. When he was asked to return the ball, those jeers turned to playful booing.
• Kuechly doesnt have a traditional last name, so hes used to it getting misspelled. It happened again Saturday. The back of the practice jersey, which he said he usually doesnt wear, read KUECHLEY. Why hasnt he mentioned it to anyone? Its not a big deal. It doesnt bother me too much.
• Darvin Adams seemed to be one of Derek Andersons favorite targets Saturday. The second-year receiver from Auburn made a nice over-the-shoulder grab in a passing drill after beating projected starting cornerback Captain Munnerlyn on a double move down the far sideline.
• The Panthers are off Sunday and resume practice Monday in Spartanburg, where they will stay through Friday before the opening exhibition against Houston on Aug. 11.
THREE QUESTIONS WITH...
Receiver Seyi Ajirotutu
Q: You came in Week 1 last year and missed training camp. Did you ever get a chance to compete for a spot in the receiving rotation?
All the receivers stayed healthy. I was just grinding on special teams. Things went well here and there. But I was able to do some good things. Obviously, they brought me back this year, which is a good thing. Im just trying to take that and run with it.
Q: What do you bring to this team from a receiving standpoint?
I know all the receiver positions so obviously thats added depth. If someone goes down, I can take (over), no problem. Blocking and whatever else theyll have me, Ill do.
Q: Are your parents from Nigeria? And what does your name mean?
My fathers from Nigeria. My moms from L.A. My name means God has done this. I was my dads first-born male, so God gave my dad a son. So thats me.
Getting to know...
RB Lyndon Rowells
Height: 5-9 Weight: 215
College: Humboldt State
NFL experience: None. He is second in Humboldt State history with 2,725 rushing yards in just two years at the school. He spent his first two seasons at College of the Redwoods where he was all-conference both seasons.
The scoop: Rowells wont be supplanting DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart at running back, but the rookie will look to compete this training camp for that third RB spot with Josh Vaughan and Tauren Poole.
Bet you didnt know... He was the Offensive Player of the Year in two different conferences in college the Bay Valley Conference his sophomore year and the Great Northwest Athletic Conference as a junior.