Carolina Panthers second-round pick Curtis Samuel was not expecting to miss this much time.
The speedy wide receiver was supposed to hit the gate sprinting as training camp opened at Wofford a little over two weeks ago. But in his first night under the lights and in front of a crowd at Gibbs Stadium, he re-aggravated a hamstring injury that had hindered him in the spring.
Now, he said, he is trying to heal a minor strain.
“I thought it was good going into camp,” he said on Friday in his first podium session in Spartanburg – on his 21st birthday. “I did the conditioning test, it didn’t bother me and I didn’t feel it at all. First practice was fine. The main thing I thought about was, ‘How would it feel when I get fatigued?’
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“So that was my main concern. ... Like I said, the first day was fine. I guess when it got fatigued it kind of got sore.”
Samuel was not able to provide a timeline for getting back onto the field, although he has been slowly and steadily progressing to running half-speed routes with quarterback Cam Newton, who also is limited in camp.
“I don’t want to go back out on the field and further damage it, hurt myself and further hurt this team,” he said.
While Samuel has had to have patience with the hamstring strain, the Panthers have had to have patience in his absence as well. As the No. 40 overall pick behind first-round running back/receiver Christian McCaffrey, Samuel was supposed to immediately be the new threat in the slot. He was also supposed to be a vertical option following the exit of Ted Ginn Jr. in free agency and will ultimately count on versatility similar to McCaffrey’s to help create tricky looks and personnel situations for opposing defenses.
Now, he is delayed. While there isn’t a question Samuel makes the roster, he will be playing catch-up once he’s healthy.
“I just want to try to make an impact at receiver, wherever the coaches put me,” he said. “Wherever the coaches put me, I want to make the most of it (and) be the player I need to be to help this team out.”