Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton continued to rest his sore shoulder at Friday night’s Fan Fest at Bank of America Stadium and did not throw for a fourth consecutive practice.
As is his tradition at the event, Newton still pumped up the crowd quite a bit. And where he wasn’t able to make flashy plays on offense, rookie running back Christian McCaffrey showed off a little of his quick-step to get the fans roaring.
Here’s what we learned:
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▪ Defensive ends Julius Peppers and Charles Johnson and center Ryan Kalil did not participate in the two-hour practice, but it was a scheduled veterans’ rest day for all three.
▪ Elsewhere, injuries continue to plague a few Panthers. Defensive tackles Kawann Short and Kyle Love did not participate – Love has been limited most of camp with an undisclosed injury, while Short has been dealing with some hamstring and lower back soreness and has missed the last three days. Corner Zack Sanchez was out for a third day with an undisclosed injury, and receiver Curtis Samuel has continued to miss all but one day of camp with hamstring issues. Linebacker Jared Norris was held out of practice for a second day, while rookie receiver Fred Ross, who was carted off the field at the conclusion of Wednesday’s practice and missed Thursday, was present Friday but did not practice. Defensive tackle Toby Johnson also worked off to the side with trainers and left tackle Matt Kalil was limited with a groin injury but expects to be back in action on Sunday.
▪ Little-known receiver Kaelin Clay got the excitement level going early in the session with a 44-yard diving touchdown catch with corner Jeff Richards draped all over him.
▪ Though Samuel was still unable to practice, he warmed up slowly with trainers and caught a few passes at a slow jog.
▪ McCaffrey caused the crowd to explode after juking corner Daryl Worley and linebacker Thomas Davis, causing the two to bump into each other. The defense is still not wrapping up with full contact, but nevertheless, the rookie running back’s cuts were crisp.
▪ McCaffrey also punched in a 2-yard touchdown up the gut near the middle of practice.
▪ Without Sanchez, rookie undrafted free agent corner Cole Luke has continued to make the most of his opportunity at the nickel behind veteran Captain Munnerlyn.
▪ The kicking battle between Graham Gano and rookie draft pick Harrison Butker got a little more exciting in front of the fans at the stadium. Both kickers finished their nights with 55-yard field goals with room to spare behind the uprights.
▪ Receiver Kelvin Benjamin did not go through team drills, but had individual drills. He was also limited in Thursday’s practice, and Rivera said Benjamin’s “legs were wobbly.”
▪ Underdog receiver Mose Frazier was the first Panthers player to take the field on Friday night, followed closely by newly signed tight end Bryce Williams (an East Carolina product).
▪ Duke product and current Sacramento Kings power forward Harry Giles, a huge Panthers fan, watched practice from the sideline.
▪ The Panthers signed Make-A-Wish kid Dom Fuller, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, to a “quarterback” contract alongside backup Joe Webb. Webb held Fuller on his shoulder during the pre-practice huddle, and included him in every part of practice, from allowing Fuller to throw to him as he ran routes to signing autographs.
▪ Safety Travell Dixon, who was waived due to an undisclosed lower leg injury, cleared waivers and is now on Carolina’s injured reserve.
▪ Several media members were almost hit by Andy Lee punts from the far sideline. We think it was an accident. We think.