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

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Carolina Panthers cautious before preseason game vs. Chicago Bears

SPARTANBURG For at least the first half of Wednesday’s practice at Wofford College, the Panthers’ tempo and intensity looked nothing like the previous day.

Tuesday’s practice featured full pads, big hits and even a fight, which coach Ron Rivera referred to as a “small melee.”

But with the Chicago Bears coming to Charlotte on Friday, the Panthers dialed it back. Rivera threw out third-team defenses and offenses after first-teamers as a scout team preparing for Chicago.

“We’re starting to gear up toward Friday so we wanted to give them an opportunity to get their legs back a little more and really have them focus in on the mental aspects of the game,” Rivera said. “We’re trying to guess pretty much what Chicago’s trying to be because of the new staff, and at the same time getting some reps against what we think they’re going to be.

“And then the second half of practice was more about us competing against us and that’s when the tempo really picked up. You saw the tempo improve as practice finished up.”

Though Rivera played for and coached the Bears, he and his staff aren’t sure what to expect from Chicago’s offense. Coach Marc Trestman took over this offseason after five years in the Canadian Football League, but his track record as an NFL and college coordinator means the Panthers are expecting a West Coast-style offense.

“I think that’s what we’re working toward and kind of guessing a little bit because we don’t have a lot on them,” Rivera said. “We’ll do the best we can and we’ll react to it. We’ll see how the defense handles that situation.”

STAR RISING: Dwan Edwards joked that, though he welcomed the added help to the defensive line, taking veteran’s days off makes him nervous.

After taking a rest day Wednesday, Edwards said he has to look over his shoulder because eventually, one of the younger guys will take his job.

Edwards’ job as a starting defensive tackle is safe for now. The Panthers bolstered their defensive line when they drafted Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short in the first two rounds in April. And in Lotulelei, Edwards sees a quick learner.

“I think just picking up the defense and be able to make checks and calls and be able to understand what’s going on out there as far as the defense,” Edwards said of Lotulelei’s improvements since spring workouts. “And then also what the offense is trying to do you and how they’re trying to block you. He’s really picking stuff up real quick, and you can definitely see his talent out there. (He’s) a big, strong, huge guy who’s going to be able to push the pocket and for his size, an athletic guy.”

MITCHELL SOLIDIFYING: Rivera said earlier in camp that he was excited to see how safety Mike Mitchell would perform in pads. One week later, he’s not disappointed.

Mitchell has been cementing his spot as the starting strong safety of late. The former Oakland Raider is known for his physicality, and Tuesday that showed when he was one of the main players involved in the fracas.

“He’s one of those guys when you put the pads on, his play starts to step up,” Rivera said. “Part of it is his physicality. The things he does, he does better.

“I know during OTAs and minicamp he got frustrated because he didn’t have the opportunity to make the plays he normally does. It’s good to see him. He’s kind of separating himself from the bunch and we’ll see how he is once we start playing.”

OBSERVATIONS

•  A number of players took Wednesday off with various injuries, outside of Edwards and Steve Smith with the veteran’s day off. C/G Jeff Byers (knee), TE Zack Pianalto (quad), WR Domenik Hixon (leg), RB Jonathan Stewart (ankle), LB Jon Beason (knee), G Edmund Kugbila (hamstring), WR James Shaw (hamstring), CB Josh Thomas (groin) and FB Mike Tolbert (hamstring).

•  Rivera said Kugbila is “about a week” away from returning to the field.

•  Kenjon Barner looks strong on passes out of the backfield. Derek Anderson found the sixth-round pick on a nice wheel route that would have picked up more than 20 yards.

•  Cornerback James Dockery may have had his best day of camp Wednesday. Dockery laid out for a pass from Cam Newton intended for Kealoha Pilares and intercepted it. Rivera said afterward he liked Dockery’s positioning that day.

•  Wofford grad and first-year receiver Brenton Bersin was targeted several times Wednesday, and he came up with some big catches in the third-team two-minute drill. Jimmy Clausen connected with Bersin, who has a shot to make the practice squad, on a touchdown in the drill.

•  David Gettis didn’t have his best day of practice. He dropped two easy catches and bobbled another across the middle. He did, however, make one deep catch near the end of practice.

Three questions with TE Ben Hartsock

Q: Thoughts on (rookie TE) Brandon Williams?

I refer to him as first-team All-Bus. He’s a guy that whenever we’re going anywhere, get him off the bus first and he’ll make an impression. The guy’s built like (Arnold) Schwarzenegger, but he’s really done well. He’s got a lot of learning to do as far as angles and techniques and things like that, but just from sheer athleticism and his strength and his ability to run as well as being a strong guy, it’s an exciting thing. So I can see why the coaches (are) very excited about him.

Q: Who else is first-team, All-Bus?

Bruce Campbell, no doubt. Let’s see, I want to get some defensive guys. Beason’s first-team All-Bus. Cam’s first-team All-Bus. I mean, if you put him in a 50 number, most people would be scared of him blitzing off the edge. Your first-team Bus guys, yeah, those are good guys.

Q: Are you growing a camp beard?

I guess we’ll call it a camp beard. It’s something we just kind of started after minicamp and now I brought it into camp and I got a real positive response from the teammates, and now I’m sticking with it. I told my wife. She likes it, not quite sure. But I said, ‘Babe, now that the guys like it, you’re going to have to really politick to get me to take it off now.’

Getting to know…

Tauren Poole

Height: 5-foot-10

Weight: 210

College: Tennessee

NFL experience: 2 years

The scoop: Poole has great vision on the field, and the Panthers liked him enough last year to keep him around on injured reserve. He obviously has a better chance of sticking if Jonathan Stewart is still on the physically unable to perform list when the regular season starts. He’s competing with Armond Smith for third-team reps.

Twitter handle: @WhoisTPoole

Recent tweet: I never envision failure.

Jonathan Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9

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