SPARTANBURG Two weeks before the start of training camp, Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said he felt as good as he has in four years.
A hamstring injury that has sidelined Davis for the early stages of camp has not changed his outlook.
“I talked about that earlier this offseason, about how good I was feeling. Nothing has really changed, other than this hamstring,” Davis said Monday. “My knees felt great. I’m excited about this season, and really excited about getting on the field and actually practicing.”
Davis, who came back last season following three ACL surgeries on his right knee, said he pulled his hamstring during a running workout last week in Charlotte. He hopes to return Thursday.
“It’s healing pretty well right now,” he said. “It happened last Monday before we came down here. It’s been healing according to what our trainers say is on schedule. It’s all about not re-injuring it.”
Davis is not the only linebacker who is out. Jon Beason, recovering from microfracture surgery on his right knee, has yet to practice and said last week it was possible he will miss all of camp. Since mid-November 2009, Beason and Davis have started only one game together.
Davis is eager to have the linebacker corps intact.
“It’s going to be really exciting having us all out there,” Davis said. “With the addition of Luke Kuechly last year and the way he was able to go out and play, the way he’s performing right now, when you get all of us out on the field at the same time, there’s not going to be enough tackles to go around.”
CAPTAIN BALL: With basketball legend Jerry West in attendance, one reporter was curious who the best basketball player on the Panthers is.
Considering his size and athletic ability, Cam Newton would be a formidable point forward. Offensive lineman Bruce Campbell’s father played professionally in Europe for nearly a decade before being inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.
Greg Hardy played basketball for one season at Ole Miss, and this offseason he posted several videos of himself dunking on regulation goals.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who can play, and we’ve got a lot of guys that think they can play,” Rivera said. “That’s a big part of the problem. Probably the worst one is Captain (Munnerlyn). He probably thinks he can play better than anybody.
“We’ve got some guys that can really play. Obviously, our quarterback is one of those guys that can play. Charles Johnson actually has a pretty good game. Ted Ginn can jump out the building, as can Brandon LaFell. We’ve got a number of great athletes, but it’s good to see they’re playing football.”
ALEXANDER’S WALL: Frank Alexander began his rookie year last season on fire before succumbing to the notorious “rookie wall” late in the season.
“Towards the end I’m not going to lie, I think I did,” Alexander said. “In college you play 13 games, we were 12 at Week 8 and then you had eight more games. I just got to get myself ready to go 16-20 games. I think I did hit one but I’ll be better this year.”
Alexander racked up 2.5 sacks as a backup defensive end after the first four games but didn’t record another for the rest of the season.
His game stalled midway through the 2012 season, but he did finish strong playing behind Hardy and Johnson on the depth chart. In the final seven games, Alexander had 12 of his 18 total quarterback pressures.
“You got to prepare yourself mentally to be able to go that long of a stretch,” Alexander said. “There’s a greater cause at the end if you just push yourself through.”
• Seniority has its advantages. Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is getting a week off. Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross, who had offseason ankle surgery, got the day off Monday. Ron Rivera regularly rests his veterans during training camp and the regular season.
• Receiver Steve Smith made a nice double-move to get behind Munnerlyn for a long completion near the start of team drills. When Munnerlyn and free safety Charles Godfrey conferred, Smith yelled, “Y’all can talk about it later.”
• Nate Chandler, who moved from defensive tackle to offensive tackle during the spring, pancaked linebacker Ben Jacobs with a nice block during team drills.
• Monday was the Panthers’ first session on Wofford’s practice fields, which needed a couple days to dry out following all the rain the Spartanburg area received in the weeks leading to training camp.
• First-year tight end Brandon Williams, the former Oregon player who also played basketball at Portland Bible College, caught a long pass from Derek Anderson and stumbled into the end zone. Newton had fun with it, mimicking Williams’ stumble.
• Williams is one of five players signed by the Panthers out of the NFL’s regional or super regional combines. The others: cornerback Melvin White, defensive end Louis Nzegwu, defensive tackle Linden Gaydosh and punter Jordan Gay. Only Atlanta, with six, has more.
3 questions with Robert Lester
Q. Coming from Alabama, is the tempo in practice any different?
It’s pretty much the same because (Alabama coach Nick) Saban was always on us about quick tempo. Practices were fast. It’s just like it is out here. It’s nothing new to me.
Q. Have you had any run-ins with Cam Newton with your Auburn-Alabama connection?
We’ve had a few conversations. Every time he sees me he says “War Eagle,” and I want to play with him back and say “roll Tide,” but that’s the starting quarterback and you can’t make too many jokes to him. Cam’s definitely a good guy.
Q. What do you remember about playing Cam when he was at Auburn?
We had to stop him. Very physical guy, could make plays with his feet and arm. Just had to be on my Ps and Qs going against him.
Getting to know …
DT Frank Kearse
College: Alabama A&M
NFL experience: Third season
The scoop: A seventh-round pick of Miami in 2011, Kearse was signed off the Dolphins practice squad as a rookie. He started four games each of his first two years, collecting 19 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 14 career games. With the Panthers drafting Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short and signing Colin Cole, Kearse could have a tough time making the team.
Twitter handle: @GoodFella_99
Recent tweet: “Brought a mirror so I can face the truth.”
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