The Carolina Panthers’ last day of minicamp on Thursday was hotter in temperature, but players played it a little cooler than Wednesday’s intense workout.
That might have had a little to do with the watchful eye of team owner Jerry Richardson, who attended the final session as first-round pick Christian McCaffrey was finally able to work out with the team.
It might also have had a little to do with the calm pre-practice music the team played in honor of “Throwback Thursday.” A few players booed the selections of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and “Just My Imagination” by The Temptations during stretches, and quarterback Cam Newton even offered the music guy $100 if he “put on Young Thug.”
Some other notable observations:
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Do not swing at Luke Kuechly
Receiver Mose Frazier, whom the Panthers brought in on a future contract in January, took a swing at linebacker Luke Kuechly late in Thursday’s practice. Kuechly did not take kindly to that and the two locked up briefly, but no further fisticuffs occurred.
Of any player on the team, Kuechly is probably the last person anybody should swing at – especially a non-starting receiver – but the two shook it off quickly and Frazier snagged a long touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Webb a few minutes later.
“My reaction from that is that Mose isn’t going to take it from anybody,” said head coach Ron Rivera after the workout. “At the same time, he has to be smart. If he gets ejected and if our guy reacts to it he gets ejected. So that’s basically what I told both of those guys, ‘Just be smart, we all have Panthers on our heads and let’s not get thrown out of football games.’”
McCaffrey finally makes it to minicamp
An anxious-to-get-there McCaffrey finally was eligible to attend the Panthers’ minicamp, after an NFL and NCAA rule had prevented him from prior participation.
The Panthers threw McCaffrey right into the fire in multiple packages and schemes, and Rivera said he was impressed with how prepared the first-round pick was.
“Today there was a red zone drill, and one thing that happened (was defensive coordinator Steve) Wilks had a blitz on,” said Rivera. “Christian was on, was in there and I looked up and saw the play and it called for Christian to read for protection, which he did very well. I knew it was something that he had to have studied because otherwise he would not have known who to pick up or who to read.”
McCaffrey only got a short time with teammates, but Rivera said it was enough to remind them what he brings to the table.
“As brief as it was, I think his teammates got a flair for what he can do for us offensively,” said Rivera.
The excitement surrounding the running back’s return to Bank of America Stadium was so palpable in the crowd that lined up for autographs outside the practice field gates that tight end Greg Olsen commented dryly on it during a team drill in which McCaffrey broke open a run.
“Lots of tweeting going on back there,” said Olsen with a grin, turning to media behind him. “‘Great run!’”
The rookies are able to use the team’s facilities for one more week and they will lift during that time, although they are not allowed to interact with coaches. This does mean, however, that McCaffrey will finally have the opportunity to get to know his teammates a little bit better before training camp.
Cam Newton calls the shots
Newton hasn’t just been chattering away to the Panthers’ defense this week.
On Thursday, the quarterback, who is still unable to throw as he progresses on schedule through his post-surgery rehabilitation, was in control of the microphone offensive coordinator Mike Shula usually uses to call the plays.
“We gave him control of the mics and he called plays today,” said Rivera. “He talked with Coach Shula and we were moving the ball and Cam controlled it. He made calls, he communicated with the quarterbacks. He had a big smile on his face. He said ‘I’m not sure if I like doing this. I’d much rather be told what to do.’”
Rivera said the exercise was good for Newton to see what a playcaller goes through and to get a birds-eye view of offensive operations.
“Quite honestly, that’s something that we thought about yesterday that we should have been doing more of, in all honesty,” said Rivera, who added that this might be something the team implements more of in the future with Newton.
A few injuries to monitor
Tackle Michael Oher was notably present inside Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday morning to meet with doctors, but did not make it out to the field for any of the three days of minicamp.
Defensive end Ryan Delaire, defensive tackle Vernon Butler and both Charles Johnsons began their sessions on the stationary bike. Delaire is still rehabbing last year’s knee injury, and Johnson the defensive end is rehabbing after a spring microdiscectomy.
Receiver Curtis Samuel has been having some hamstring trouble, and after a little early action in red zone drills he did not participate for the rest of the workout.
A successful minicamp
Rivera certainly considered the last three days successful. The Panthers went through all of their installations during organized team activities earlier this spring, and he said this week was really about testing the young guys to see what their retention was.
“We wanted to see where the veterans were (too) in terms of the units that were whole and it gave us a great opportunity to see that,” he said. “And then today was a real good culmination, as you noticed we did a lot of no-huddle stuff today, picked the tempo up. I was real excited about it.
“Probably the biggest disappointment I had today was Throwback Thursday. They didn’t play my song.”