The first practice of Carolina Panthers training camp for 2018 was held Thursday at Wofford College, in front of a sizable crowd at Gibbs Stadium.
Beforehand, at the on-site store at Wofford, second-year running back Christian McCaffrey’s No. 22 Jersey has a slightly more prominent display than anyone else — even quarterback Cam Newton and linebacker Luke Kuechly.
New Panthers owner David Tepper was at Wofford, roaming the sidelines in a baseball cap, just as he used to do in Pittsburgh. He looked a bit like an assistant offensive line coach — who happens to be worth $11 billion.
Tepper spent time talking to general manager Marty Hurney and head coach Ron Rivera.
There were a few oddities, such as local and long-standing restaurant Wade’s hiring a plane to circle overhead while pulling a banner that read: “Keep camp in Spartanburg.”
And former UNC basketball star Rasheed Wallace was at Wofford, for some reason — in a Kansas City Chiefs jersey. Wallace and Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers exchanged a greeting as Peppers, still recovering from shoulder surgery, was making his way to the weight room.
Just before practice began, Newton, healthy this season after being limited for most of the preseason a year ago after surgery on his throwing shoulder, danced to the music as the team took the field.
From that point on, there was actual football. Here are 15 things we saw:
▪ Running back C.J. Anderson, as is his custom since his days with the Denver Broncos, was practicing in full sweats in the Spartanburg heat. Most everybody else was in shorts.
▪ The first two receivers catching balls from Newton in individual drills were Devin Funchess and Torrey Smith.
▪ Marquis Haynes displayed his quickness against the hit dummy early in practice.
▪ Linebacker Thomas Davis tipped a pass from long-time practice rival Newton, but first-round pick Moore still hauled it in.
▪ Funchess looked a little quicker coming out of his breaks. Defensive end Daeshon Hall looked like he has filled out a little.
▪ A diving, over-the-middle catch by Damiere Byrd from Garrett Gilbert drew ooohs from the crowd. Byrd had five impressive catches in the session.
▪ At one point, Newton took a huge box of Bojangles’ from the crowd and sat down in the end zone with the rest of the quarterbacks like they were at a picnic. The crowd went nuts. No chicken was actually consumed.
▪ Funchess limped off mid-practice with cramps, something he has dealt with for much of his career. “I’m cramping,” he shouts to a fan. “Just be good for Week 1,” the fan shouts back. He was stretched by trainers.
▪ After one catch, Moore juked two defenders. When the pads go on Saturday that’ll be fun to watch.
▪ First-team defensive line: Wes Horton, Kawann Short, Dontari Poe, Mario Addison.
▪ Alex Armah, who hasn’t quite settled into an NFL position in his second season, began camp with the tight ends.
▪ An early group in the first-team secondary: James Bradberry, rookie Donte Jackson, rookie Rashaan Gaulden, Mike Adams. But that group was fluid, with Kevon Seymour and Da’Norris Searcy also rotating in.
▪ Amini Silatolu got the first first-team look at left guard.
▪ Fielding punts: McCaffrey, rookie first-round pick Moore and Smith.
▪ Corn Elder got some repetitions at outside cornerback, as predicted in the spring.