The Carolina Panthers’ final session of organized team activities (OTAs) began on a rainy Monday morning at Bank of America Stadium. And, as usual, the practice was full of tidbits of information:
Bradberry banged up
Second-year cornerback James Bradberry spooked a few of his teammates when an awkward collision with linebacker Luke Kuechly took him down near the end of the workout.
After heading to the locker room with head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion and getting an X-ray, the team announced that Bradberry had suffered a fractured left wrist.
He will be in a cast for six weeks, but it is still a possibility that Bradberry is able to participate in minicamp in June. He is expected to be fully recovered by training camp in the fall.
Shepard makes space
Wide receiver Russell Shepard, picked up in free agency from Tampa Bay, continues to impress. He has been working with the first-team offense in the slot and as an outside recevier, and snagged a red-zone touchdown pass in heavy traffic that got his teammates hooting in celebration.
Cam Newton’s rehab is moving quickly
Carolina starting quarterback Cam Newton was his usual chatty, energetic self on the sidelines. Newton continues running through workouts and installations despite not being able to throw after his surgery in March, and is progressing on schedule according to Rivera.
Newton will throw on the sidelines at minicamp later this month, Rivera said.
As in the two OTA sessions prior, defensive end Julius Peppers was absent from on-field workouts. Rivera said the decision to hold out the 16-year veteran is precautionary through voluntary workouts to preserve his 37-year-old body.
Three other non-participants
Veteran defensive end Charles Johnson (who had a microdiscectomy in the spring), receiver Charles Johnson and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei worked on the side with trainers during on-field activities.
Wes Horton filled in as a “starting” defensive end and took first-team repetitions on the other side of Mario Addison. Defensive tackle Vernon Butler filled in for Lotulelei.
Rivera hopes Michael Oher returns for mandatory minicamp
Oher has been absent from OTAs, but the Panthers’ upcoming minicamp is mandatory. Rivera said the team has been in contact with Oher and that the former starting left tackle (who will shift to the right side pending his return) is working out on his own. Rivera added that he’d like to see Oher return to team workouts, but “we’ll see.”
Oher is also scheduled to appear in court on June 6 after a misdemeanor assault citation was levied against him last month from an alleged encounter with an Uber driver in Tennessee.
McCaffrey signs Charlotte lease, eager to get to work
Running back Christian McCaffrey, Carolina’s first-round draft pick, is eager to get to work after the NCAA quarter system rule (of which Stanford is a part) has continued to mandate his absence from OTAs.
He signed a lease in Charlotte over the weekend and participated in Rivera’s charity bowling tournament. Carolina can expect him back on June 14 for minicamp.
Ryan Kalil, music video producer
Carolina’s veteran center had a little fun at his quarterback’s expense this weekend.
Kalil parodied Newton’s “Big Booty” Costa Rican birthday celebration music video using fellow offensive linemen, tight end Greg Olsen and Kuechly as the group went on its annual offseason camping trip.
Rivera said the team all watched it together and found it hilarious - including Newton.
“Cam loved it. He’s trying to hire Ryan away as his new videographer,” Rivera said laughing.
Coaches have their eyes on Ben Boulware
Boulware, a popular former Clemson linebacker who was signed as an undrafted free agent by Carolina, has apparently impressed Rivera with his adaptation to the NFL learning curve.
“What I’ve seen from Ben is a young man who takes the game very seriously, studies and does his responsibilities as a football player the way he should on the field,” said Rivera. “He’s showing he reads very quickly, makes good decisions and gets downhill, plays with his hands very nicely. He’s a young guy that we’re going to keep an eye on.”
Monday was the first day undrafted free agent receiver Austin Duke appeared to struggle. He had a couple of drops in the slick, drizzly air.
Two other rookies - kicker Harrison Butker and fullback Alex Armah - also made mistakes. Butker missed a short field goal and a teammate yelled “air ball!” Armah closed out practice with a drop - after which he was bowled over.