The Carolina Panthers will not hold their first full-squad practice until Friday in Spartanburg, but their rookies went through two days of practices this week in Charlotte.
Coach Ron Rivera noticed this about the conditioning of defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, the team’s first two picks in the April draft:
Lotulelei reported in good shape; Short showed up in better shape.
Rivera expects Lotulelei, the 14th overall pick, to continue to get a lot of reps with the first-team defense, as he did during organized team activities and minicamp. While Lotulelei can play “sideline to sideline,” Rivera said Short is the more explosive pass-rusher at this stage.
“He has slither about him,” Rivera said. “He can get into the crease and turn his body, drop his shoulder and come off a blocker very smooth-like.”
While the two defensive tackles are in good shape, Rivera said fourth-round pick Edmund Kugbila will need extra conditioning at Wofford. Kugbila, a guard from Division II Valdosta (Ga.) State, missed most of OTAs and minicamp with a leg injury.
Rivera said Kugbila reminds him of left guard Amini Silatolu, another Division II product who started 15 games as a rookie in 2012.
“He’s got a little bit of explosive pop to him. He reminds me a little bit of watching Amini last year when Amini came in and popped some people,” Rivera said. “Very bright kid. He’s retention was very good, considering the fact that he had limited reps coming out of OTAs and minicamp.”
Rivera thinks the Panthers’ other two draft picks – Iowa State linebacker A.J. Klein and Oregon running back Kenjon Barner – can contribute this season, with Klein expected to fill a special teams role.
Rivera also praised the play of a pair of undrafted defensive backs – cornerback Melvin White from Louisiana-Lafayette and safety Robert Lester, a part of three national title teams at Alabama.
Wharton works out: Former offensive lineman Travelle Wharton worked out for the Panthers on Tuesday, a day after being released by Cincinnati. Wharton, 32, who missed all of last season after tearing the ACL in his right knee during the Bengals’ first preseason game, also underwent a physical Tuesday.
Rivera was noncommittal on whether the Panthers would sign Wharton, who started 99 games during eight seasons with Carolina before he was cut after the 2011 season.
Attempts to reach Wharton, the former South Carolina standout who still lives in the Charlotte area, were unsuccessful.
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