It was a sight no one had seen since December.
Despite the wet conditions Sunday afternoon, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart were on the field with the first-team offense together.
For Newton, the Panthers allowed him to do read-option plays for the first time since having his left ankle surgically repaired. Stewart was back in a helmet for the first time all training camp after straining his hamstring a week before camp started.
“It’s good to have them out there. It really is,” coach Ron Rivera said. “As far as Cam is concerned, it’s all what we’re going through with him. It was decided we were going to work some zone read with him today, so he got a little bit of that. Getting Jonathan back on the field is right about a good time to have him back.”
Rivera was displeased with the run-blocking Friday. The Panthers want to control time of possession this season, and running the ball will help them do that, but Kenjon Barner and Mike Tolbert could only muster 7 yards on eight carries Friday.
Rivera said Newton’s workload will increase now after he did little during Wednesday and Thursday’s practices. He sat out Friday’s exhibition, but Rivera said he expects Newton, Stewart and running back DeAngelo Williams to play next Sunday against the Chiefs.
Williams, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, has declined interview requests from the Observer and other media outlets each day since the start of camp. He did a radio interview with former Panthers general manager Marty Hurney at the beginning of camp.
Rivera said because of a short turnaround between next Sunday’s exhibition against the Chiefs and the Aug. 22 exhibition at New England, the starters will play into halftime and possibly into the third quarter against Kansas City but not so long against the Patriots.
“I’d hate to play a half a game and then all of a sudden, bam, on a short week we’re traveling on Thursday, playing on Friday and expect the guys to come out and play effectively,” Rivera said.
The Panthers were in helmets and shorts Sunday, but they will practice in full pads Monday and Tuesday before wrapping up camp and going home Tuesday afternoon.
Rivera also is hoping for warmer weather as the team breaks camp. Sunday offered a cool afternoon practice that won’t help the team for its Week 1 match at Tampa Bay.
“He was struggling to walk a little bit,” Rivera said.
Rivera said Ealy has not had an MRI. Ealy, a second-round pick, said he hopes to return within a couple of days.
Right tackle Nate Chandler sat out with a knee injury that sidelined him for a practice last week. Rivera hopes Chandler will practice Monday.
Among the other players who didn’t practice Sunday were defensive end Charles Johnson (hamstring), safety Roman Harper (toe), wide receiver Philly Brown (hamstring) and tight end Mike McNeill (knee).
Graham Gano, who missed the first exhibition with a lower back injury, was back kicking Sunday.
• Predictably, there were a lot of dropped passes and fumbles on the field. Third-string quarterback Joe Webb fumbled on consecutive plays when he mishandled a snap then botched a handoff to running back Fozzy Whittaker.
• The conditions did not seem to bother rookie wideout Kelvin Benjamin. A first-round pick, he caught a touchdown from Newton when backup safety Colin Jones fell, and later he cradled Newton’s pass after going to the ground to grab it.
• Receiver Tiquan Underwood had a nice sliding catch in the back of the end zone during team drills.
• Tight end/fullback Richie Brockel objected to an after-the-catch low hit by safety Tom Nelson by throwing the ball at Nelson. Rivera said Nelson stumbled into Brockel, and he reminded Brockel in a game his actions would have resulted in a 15-yard penalty and possible ejection.
• Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly stepped in front of a Newton pass for a red-zone interception. Outside linebacker Thomas Davis then yelled at Newton: “Gotcha, (No.) 1.”
• Jones had a shot at an interception when Newton overthrew Benjamin, but the ball bounced off Jones’ chest.
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