Carolina Panthers minicamp is supposed to be a non-contact stroll through the playbook, but Wednesday’s session was more like putting bees in a barrel and rolling it down a hill on a hot day.
If it catches you, you’re either going to get stung, or flattened.
Tensions rose early as the defense made several plays to thwart the offense, and spiked when veteran corner Captain Munnerlyn hassled Derek Anderson a bit harder than the quarterback seemed to appreciate during team drills, as Anderson looked for a receiver on a broken play. Anderson threw the ball at Munnerlyn’s feet and Munnerlyn came back at him for more. The two had to be broken up by teammates.
“I probably shouldn’t let those little things get to me, but I’m a competitor,” said Anderson. “I’m gonna compete and fight and get this team better.”
Panthers cornerback James Bradberry said that because quarterback Cam Newton was talkin’ mess before Wednesday’s minicamp started, the defense had to prove him wrong.
“That’s been his thing for a long time,” said veteran linebacker Thomas Davis, whose jawing back and forth with Newton started around the middle of practice and didn’t let up until the end. “We don’t really worry about Cam. We go out there and we compete hard. We do a good job of keeping it healthy trash talk, healthy competition.”
And boy, did the defense let Newton know they had heard him.
Bradberry, still playing with one hand after fracturing his left wrist last week, broke up a pass deep in the corner of the end zone during team drills as Newton screamed from the sideline to try to throw him off.
Bradberrry and corner Daryl Worley followed that with another breakup apiece (with Worley’s coming against big receiver Kelvin Benjamin), and then Bradberry ate up receiver Devin Funchess in coverage and pulled in an interception.
Rookie corner Corn Elder also got a pass breakup, on a mid-range route. In his first day back in full activity after being limited most of the previous three weeks’ organized team activities, Elder saw some time with the first-team defense as an outside corner with Munnerlyn occupying the nickel.
If contact were allowed, backup linebacker David Mayo would have flattened quarterback Joe Webb on a blitz off the edge during drills. Defensive tackle Kawann Short batted down an Anderson pass, and linebacker Luke Kuechly showed off his speed to get across the field to break up a pass intended for rookie Curtis Samuel.
As they made play after play, the defense started to chatter back – and then the extracurricular activity between Munnerlyn and Anderson hit its peak.
“We’re not going to let them come out here and just push us around every day,” said Anderson.
Unusual for minicamp, yes, but perhaps a positive sign of things to come, according to Davis.
“When the temperature goes up, the competition level goes up,” he said. “And I think from a competitive standpoint we did a really good job on both sides getting after it. When we do things like that I feel like it makes us a better team.”