Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera, a former NFL linebacker, often talks about how good the Panthers linebacker corps can be.
But first he had to get all the pieces on the field together. That happened for the first time Sunday.
Outside linebacker Jon Beason practiced for the first time this preseason, participating in both individual and team drills during the two-hour, full-pads session at the Panthers practice fields.
Beason underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in October, and said recently he might have to play in pain initially.
Beason did not speak to reporters after practice, but Rivera said the three-time Pro Bowler looked good.
The key will be how Beasons knee responds to his most intense activity since minicamp. Rivera was noncommittal when asked whether Beason would play Thursday at Baltimore.
Well see how the week goes, Rivera said. Weve got to see how he responds (Monday) morning. Thats always the big question. Hopefully, itll be a good response and we can just keep rolling from here.
Beason has played in just five games the past two seasons, undergoing season-ending Achilles surgery following the season opener in 2011 before going down with shoulder and knee issues after Week 4 last season. Rivera said it was an emotional boost to get Beason back alongside middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and strongside linebacker Thomas Davis.
Very encouraging to see him out there moving around with the guys. He moved very well, Rivera said. Its the one thing Ive talked about, that front seven can be a pretty good group with Jon back out there on the football field. Although it was still pretty good with Chase (Blackburn).
Learning on the run: Defensive line coach Eric Washington expects rookie defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short to improve their technique and conditioning with the reps they get during the preseason.
Lotulelei, the 14th overall pick in the April draft, said Philadelphias fast-paced attack left him winded last week. And though the Eagles hurry-up offense is fairly unique, Washington said Lotulelei must be prepared for all situations.
Stars got to learn to function in that environment, (in) a slower pace, more conventional offense it doesnt matter, he said. When the conditions change, we cant.
Washington said Lotulelei and Short came to camp in good overall shape, and are working on their football conditioning. But he said hes pleased with their development.
Theres a learning curve with those guys. Thats the toughest position to play. Things happen so fast, Washington said. But so far they both have had a good camp. They continue to learn by playing. And we expect them to continue to make progress.
Injury report: Wideout Domenik Hixon practiced for the first time in more than two weeks, and Rivera indicated he would play against the Ravens. While Hixon was sidelined with a hamstring injury, several players leap-frogged him in the competition for the No. 3 receiver spot.
It was good to see Domenik move around. Hes a tall, fluid receiver that is a big target, Rivera said of the free agent acquisition who spent five seasons with the Giants. Look forward to seeing him on Thursday.
• By the end of Sundays practice, the Panthers were without both starting defensive ends. Greg Hardy was out with an illness, while Charles Johnson left early for an IV to treat cramps in his midsection.
Joked Rivera: Its right around the waist (or) midsection. I told him youve got to have stomach muscles first.
• Running backs Jonathan Stewart (ankle) and Mike Tolbert (hamstring) and wideout Armanti Edwards (hamstring) remain out.
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