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Panthers’ rookie Benjamin should return Saturday from bone bruise

PANTHERS0802_41
Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin runs a route for quarterback Cam Newton following Friday’s practice at Gibbs Stadium on the campus of Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. Benjamin will return to practice on Saturday after missing four days of practice with a bone bruise to his left leg.

SPARTANBURG

The Carolina Panthers should get rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin back on the field Saturday.

Benjamin, who bruised his left knee last weekend, is expected to return after the first-round pick from Florida State suffered no setbacks while running Friday.

“He ran well,” coach Ron Rivera said. “Depending on how he is first thing in the morning, he’ll probably be on the field (Saturday).”

That’s good news for the Panthers, who are hoping Benjamin can develop into a No. 1 receiver after Carolina lost its top four wideouts from last season.

Benjamin had a good start to camp before coming down hard on his knee after colliding with cornerback Charles Godfrey last Sunday.

Rivera expects Benjamin to pick up where he left off, saying he’s worked with the first team during the daily walkthroughs.

“He made a couple mistakes, but he’s been trying to stay on top of it,” Rivera said.

The Panthers could get two more injured players back Saturday – safety Thomas DeCoud, who missed most of the first week after aggravating a knee injury, and offensive lineman Garry Williams, who is dealing with patellar tendinitis in his surgically repaired knee.

Other injury updates: Running back Kenjon Barner was given a day off to rest his legs. With Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) out and the coaches being selective with DeAngelo Williams’ reps, Barner has had a lot of carries through the first week of camp.

Defensive tackle Linden Gaydosh has an ankle sprain that will sideline him at least a week.

Caught in the Webb: No. 3 quarterback Joe Webb ran the zone-read package with the first team Friday as the Panthers worked on a running package usually headed by Cam Newton, who underwent offseason ankle surgery.

With coaches limiting Newton’s running in camp, Webb is getting a chance to make a case for the Panthers to keep three quarterbacks.

“He’s right in the thick of things for us,” Rivera said. “He’s battling it out.”

The Panthers carried three quarterbacks in Rivera’s first two seasons – Newton, Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen. But in general manager Dave Gettleman’s first year with Carolina in 2013, the Panthers had only two quarterbacks after Clausen was waived-injured at the end of camp.

Webb played receiver last season for Minnesota, but Rivera said he’s being evaluated as a quarterback. Rivera said some of Webb’s best plays have come in the two-minute offense.

“That’s when he’s really natural,” Rivera said. “When everything’s frenetic and frantic and everything, he’s right in the middle of it.”

Some like it hot: Rivera wore a windbreaker Friday when the Panthers practiced under gray skies on another cool day in Spartanburg. Friday’s high of 70 degrees was 20 degrees cooler than normal – less than ideal conditions for a team that will open the season in Tampa, said Rivera.

“It’s a little concerning because the heat is all part of the conditioning. We know what Tampa’s going to be like, being down there at 4:30 in the afternoon,” he said. “So hopefully the weather will correct itself after a couple more cool days, then we’ll get some hot days and really get after the guys.”

Temperatures are expected to climb into the low 80s the next several days, with a high of 88 forecast for Tuesday.

Observations

•  Receiver Marcus Lucas kicked a low pass from Newton up in the air and caught the ball with ease for the completion during receiver drills.

•  Running back Darrin Reaves had the closest thing to a rushing touchdown in camp when he got past the second level at midfield and inside the 10-yard line before being pushed out.

•  Receiver Tavarres King had the play of the day when he reached back with his left hand and one-handed a pass from Webb across the middle. It was his fourth consecutive strong practice.

•  With each day, receiver Brenton Bersin (Wofford, Charlotte Latin) becomes more of a lock to make the 53-man roster.

•  Greg Hardy had a great rush on Byron Bell that took Bell deep into the pocket and almost into Newton.

•  Safety Colin Jones had a nice pass breakup on a deep pass from Newton to Jason Avant. Jones is settling in well to his safety role.

•  Defensive end Kony Ealy blazed past Andrew Norwell and would have sacked Anderson during team drills. That play led to one of Bene’ Benwikere’s interceptions.

Three questions with…

LB Thomas Davis

Q: A lot of guys are riding around here in carts and Segways. You’ve done a cart for years, why is that?

A: It’s all about taking advantage of anything you can do to keep your legs fresh. In the game, the fresher you are, the better you’re going to go out and compete. I’m a firm believer in that. If the cart can save my legs and keep me fresh, I’m going to keep doing that.

Q: You’re friends with LeBron (James), did he consult you before his move to Cleveland?

A: Yeah, right. No, he didn’t.

Q: How would you describe your friendship or whatever you want to call it?

A: I wouldn’t really call it a friendship. I’m a fan. He was just showing his appreciation for a fan. I’m excited he gave me his jersey and shoes (after a Bobcats-Heat game) and that’s the end of that.

Getting to know…

Guard Derek Dennis

Ht./Wt.: 6-3/325

College: Temple

NFL experience: One year.

The scoop: Dennis hasn’t done much to separate himself from a group of undrafted offensive linemen, but there’s still two weeks left for camp. The Panthers are depleted with top guard talent after starters Trai Turner, Amini Silatolu and backup Garry Williams. If Dennis can carve out a niche for himself as a second-teamer, he could stick.

Twitter handle: @6BONECRUSHER3

Recent tweet: I’m a big kid at heart! I think That’s why children love me!

Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson
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