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

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Three Carolina Panthers sidelined with injuries

SPARTANBURG ‘A little fatigue’ sidelines 3 players

The Panthers have taken steps this year to try to cut down on the number of soft-tissue injuries during training camp.

But a couple of long practices at the end of a hot week caught up with them Friday, when three players left practice early because of injury.

Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Frank Alexander were sidelined by back strains, and wide receiver Domenik Hixon was carted to the locker room with leg cramps. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the measures were precautionary.

“It’s a little fatigue,” Rivera said. “(Thursday) was a little longer because of the rain delay, and (Friday) morning was a little steamier than we had anticipated. So a couple guys got tightened up. So we just wanted to be careful with them and get them off their feet as soon as we can.”

The status of the three players for Saturday’s FanFest at Bank of America Stadium is uncertain.

The Panthers have implemented longer practice breaks and have been encouraging players to drink more water and get more rest in an effort to curb the various pulls, sprains and aches. Rookie guard Edmund Kugbila pulled his hamstring on the first night of practice, but the Panthers have avoided any major injuries.

“We have to take care of ourselves, as was noted today,” Rivera said. “We had a few more soft-tissue injuries that we hadn’t had. Hopefully, we can take care of those and get the guys back on the field.”

Emotional rescue: Strong safety Mike Mitchell, a free-agent acquisition from Oakland, tossed rookie running back Kenjon Barner to the ground at the end of a long run. Barner was not too happy about it.

Neither was Rivera, who pulled Mitchell aside and talked to him after the incident.

“Mike’s a very emotional player, and when certain things happen, he reacts a certain way,” Rivera said. “The big thing and the best thing about it is you watch him and you want to make sure he keeps his emotions in check because you don’t want to get a cheap penalty. You don’t want to get anybody tossed.”

When he was with the Raiders last season, Mitchell angered Cam Newton after hitting the Panthers quarterback after he’d released the ball.

Spin doctor: Steve Smith’s signature ball spin, which he does to punctuate big plays, could draw a 15-yard penalty this season. Taunting is among the points of emphasis the NFL has asked its officials to monitor this season.

Official Walt Anderson, part of a crew that worked the Panthers’ camp this week, said players who spin the ball “in the vicinity of the opponent” would be subject to an unsportsmanlike penalty.

But it’s a new rule that goes into effect this year that bothered Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams. Officials will penalize runners who strike opponents with the crown of their helmets outside of the tackle box.

“I think all the rules, they don’t favor us at all, even the new, lower-your-head rule,” Williams said. “That’s all we had, and they took that from us.”

Roster moves: A day after releasing Geoff Hangartner, Carolina signed guard Chris Scott following an afternoon workout. Scott, listed at 6-foot-4 and 360 pounds, was cut by Buffalo last week after he failed the Bills’ conditioning test.

The Panthers also waived injured defensive tackle Linden Gaydosh and claimed safety Ricardo Silva off waivers.

Scott, 25, a Steelers’ fifth-round pick in 2010, appeared in two games in two seasons with Pittsburgh before being released. Buffalo signed him off the Titans’ practice squad late last season.

Gaydosh, the CFL’s No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, injured his back last week at practice.

Silva played two seasons with the Lions and appeared in 14 games, including six starts last season at both the free and strong safety positions. He had one interception and one fumble recovery last year.


Observations

Backup safety Haruki Nakamura, who has scarcely been heard from since giving up the deep pass in Atlanta last year, is quietly putting together a nice camp. Nakamura took a good line to break up a Cam Newton pass Friday intended for David Gettis.

Newton, who has his own clothing line at Belk, showed off a patriotic look with stars-and-stripes ankle wraps.

Best footwork of the day was by safety D.J. Campbell, who sidestepped a reporter’s coffee cup after running out of bounds.

Former South Carolina and NFL wideout Sterling Sharpe was at practice for an NFL Network segment. Sharpe, who is active on the celebrity golf circuit, joked that he was missing a good golf day.

With cornerback Drayton Florence getting the day off, Josh Thomas got his most extensive work with the first team at camp.


3 questions with K Graham Gano

Q: Coaches talk a lot about leg fatigue among kickers at training camp. Is there a number of kicks a day that you don’t want to exceed?

I usually stick to about 40 balls, 50 balls at max. We’ve got a little clicker out there that I can keep track. But I don’t think that we’ve really come close to that. My leg’s feeling pretty good right now. I’ve learned to communicate well with the coaches. The most important thing is to be ready for game day. As long as the leg’s fresh for that, you’re good to go.

Q: Do you have a favorite stadium to kick in?

Cowboys Stadium is pretty fun to play in, just because of the atmosphere. The fans are right there on top of you. Of course, I love playing here in Charlotte. You can’t beat playing at home.

Q: What’s the worst?

The Redskins’ field is rough. You saw the big stories in the playoffs about that. That was difficult. But it was the same way in practice. So as long as you know how it’s going to be, I don’t really think you can let that get into your head.

Getting to know …

C Brian Folkerts

Height : 6-foot-4

Weight: 305

College: Washburn

NFL experience: Signed as an undrafted rookie free agent with New Orleans last year and later spent time on Tampa Bay’s practice squad.

The scoop: Folkerts started 39 games at tackle at Washburn, a Division II school in Topeka, Kan. A two-time, all-conference selection for the Ichabods, Folkerts can play guard and center and has been getting second-team reps through the first week of camp.

Twitter handle: @BrianFolkerts

Recent tweet: “Mountains have been moved. It’s time to step it up.”

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