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Notebook: 2013 CAROLINA PANTHERS TRAINING CAMP | Spartanburg, S.C.

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Carolina Panthers bring pep to first day in pads

SPARTANBURG Steve Smith caught a pass over the middle, was taken down by cornerback Josh Thomas and got up to spin the ball near Thomas’ head.

Free safety Charles Godfrey wanted to set the tone when he took DeAngelo Williams out of bounds and to the ground during an early team drill.

Sunday was the first day of practice in pads for the Panthers, and coach Ron Rivera liked what he saw.

“Very pleased with the tempo and the physicality,” Rivera said. “That’s a start of what we’ve got to maintain as we start looking forward to the season.”

Thomas is vying for one of the starting cornerback spots, and Rivera said it’s not in Thomas’ nature to back down from anyone.

“He’s a physical football player, and (organized team activities) and minicamp are not his thing,” Rivera said. “He went through a period where he had to tone down his style of play. Now that we have the pads on, he’s a physical football player. And that’s good. We need guys like that on the field.”

The only noticeable injury came on a deep pass to David Gettis. He went to the ground hard with Josh Norman covering him and seemed to get the wind knocked out of him. He was able to walk off the field without help.

Linebacker shuffle: With veterans Jon Beason (knee) and Thomas Davis (hamstring) sidelined, a couple of new linebackers have been working with the first team. Chase Blackburn, a free-agent acquisition who won two Super Bowl rings with the Giants, and rookie A.J. Klein have received plenty of reps the first few days of camp.

Returning linebacker Jordan Senn, the special teams captain, also has been in the rotation.

“I feel good about Chase. I feel good about Jordan Senn. Jordan started some games for us our first year” in 2011, Rivera said. “And then A.J.’s developing very nicely. We’re not afraid to play our young guys, and A.J. may get an opportunity.”

Klein, a fifth-round pick from Iowa State, has had to learn on the fly with the early playing time.

“You can only learn so much on paper, so getting on the field is helping my growth,” Klein said. “It’s kind of a wake-up call that I have to be ready to go at any time, and I have people counting on me so I’m ready to step up to the plate.”

Rivera said the age and injury histories of Beason and Davis shaped several of the team’s personnel moves the past two years.

“It played into a lot of things. Drafting Luke (Kuechly) last year, bringing Chase in this year and then drafting A.J.,” Rivera said. “You always have to be concerned with that. These are guys that are veteran players that hopefully have some really good years still left in them. But at the same time you’ve got to safeguard it.”

Observations

• Safety Mike Mitchell, a free-agent acquisition from Oakland, was used to blitz several times. It was Mitchell’s hit on Cam Newton last season that prompted the Panthers quarterback to get in the face of and bump referee Jerome Boger. Newton, who was flagged and later apologized, thought Mitchell’s hit was late.

• Veteran cornerback Drayton Florence has been getting his hands on a lot of balls this camp. Sunday, he stepped underneath a Derek Anderson pass intended for Joe Adams and picked it off.

• The offense outshined the defense in 7-on-7 drills. Without pressure from the defensive line, the Panthers’ defense was overmatched.

• Edmund Kugbila was back on the exercise bike with a hamstring strain and will have an MRI this week. Reserve center Jeff Byers also was sidelined as a precaution after he banged his knee during practice Saturday.

• Defensive end Greg Hardy tweeted that he has slimmed down to 279 pounds. He is listed at 290 pounds in this year’s media guide.

• There is no shortage of punt returners at camp. Six players fielded punts Sunday – Ted Ginn Jr., Adams, Armanti Edwards, Kenjon Barner, Brandon LaFell and Steve Smith, who likes to stay sharp in case the Panthers need a big-play threat at the end of a game.

3 questions with

Anderson Russell

Q. How often do people switch your name around?

All the time. It’s been happening to me my entire life. I thought it would change when I got a little older, but anytime people call me with businesses or credit cards, they always say “Russell Anderson.”

Q. Did your parents not anticipate this happening?

I think they kind of had a good idea it was going to happen, but my first name and middle name (Bass) are both of my grandmothers’ maiden names.

Q. What’s one thing outside of football that you’re good at?

I like to cook a lot. I’ve been cooking all summer. I’ll go home and start getting ready for dinner… I do a lot of chicken dishes and salmon. I try to keep it healthy.

Getting to know …

DE Craig Roh

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 275

College: Michigan

NFL experience: Rookie

The scoop: An undrafted rookie, Roh played defensive end and outside linebacker for the Wolverines. Roh will have his work cut out for him this camp because Carolina has solid depth on the ends.

Twitter handle: @CraigRoh88

Recent tweet: Roh’s Twitter account no longer is active.

Complete Carolina Panthers coverage from The Charlotte Observer at CharlotteObserver.com/panthers
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