Given the scary-looking nature of his injury Saturday, Panthers right tackle Daryl Williams was in good spirits when head coach Ron Rivera spoke to him.
Williams was relieved his right knee injury did not involve his ACL, although he still faces a long recovery after dislocating his right patella and tearing his MCL while blocking during the first pull-pads practice of camp.
A source told the Observer the initial plan is to try to have Williams rehab the knee without surgery, although sports medicine experts predict Williams eventually will need to have his kneecap repaired.
Rivera said Sunday it’s too soon to say whether Williams could return this season.
“We just started the whole process with him. It’s still early. We haven’t seen all the results and everything,” Rivera told reporters.
Williams, 25, was a second-team All-Pro in 2017 and was rated the third-best tackle in the league by Pro Football Focus. Williams, who’s in a contract year, told Rivera his injury could have been worse.
“He was very optimistic and very happy about a lot of things, obviously the biggest one is that it wasn’t an ACL,” Rivera said. “I know that took a lot of pressure off his mind.”
▪ Taylor Heinicke and Garrett Gilbert have been alternating days as the No. 2 quarterback, and Sunday was Heinicke’s day to work with the second-team offense. Heinicke showed good speed on a zone-read keeper, but threw too many passes into tight windows, according to Rivera.
“He’s got a lively arm. I think he’s a little overconfident because I think every now and then he tries to stick the ball in a tough position,” Rivera said. “In comparison when you watch Garrett, Garrett’s a little more cerebral. Garrett tends to take a little more of what he defense gives. So you see a little more of those more secure passes as opposed to a little more of the gunslinger mentality.”
Rivera said the competition remains up in the air, and the early preseason games will be key for both players.
▪ It was not a great day for rookie QB Kyle Allen, who was removed from a pass-rush drill by offensive line coach John Matsko after struggling with the cadence and dropping a ball in the pocket. Matsko replaced Allen with an assistant equipment manager.
▪ Starting QB Cam Newton was doing his best to get under the skin of the defense. After scrambling out of trouble during team period, Newton held his trademark first-down pose so long that cornerback Captain Munnerlyn had to gently flick a football into his helmet to snap him out of it.
▪ As they always do, Newton and linebacker Thomas Davis engaged in a lot of trash-talking. After a pick-six by rookie LB Chris Frey, Davis directed a shimmying dance at Newton, who was not the quarterback on the play.
▪ Newton also had some fun with the media and players’ guests who were watching along the sideline. After trailing receiver Torrey Smith to celebrate a touchdown, Newton saw an NFL Films camera and provided some audio. “They’re over here in the shade, feeling good. All they need is some lemonade.”
▪ Defensive tackle Kyle Love was given a day off Sunday. Rivera said a couple other veteran players will get a break Monday, something he’ll continue to do throughout camp.
▪ No Panther has ever slid into diving catches more gracefully than tight end Greg Olsen, who had yet another one Sunday.
▪ Reserve safety Damian Parms had a nice interception on a Gilbert pass that rookie LB Andre Smith also had a shot at.
▪ Veteran Munnerlyn was as animated Sunday as any player through the first week of camp. Munnerlyn was challenging players, including other defensive backs, to try to block him when he lined up at gunner during a punt coverage drill. “Put two up and I’ll beat ‘em.” He did, too, getting past Parms and veteran CB Ross Cockrell.
▪ It’s easy to forget how many NFL players can throw the ball well. Wide receiver Torrey Smith was off-handedly tossing 30-yard spirals off his back foot before Sunday’s practice.
Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue
Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140; @scott_fowler