Thursday’s Carolina Panthers training camp practice at Wofford College had the feel of a coaching staff that was not pleased with Wednesday’s energy level.
Every position coach was out riding herd, including head coach Ron Rivera, who was taking keen interest in an early 9-on-9 run drill, trying to set good energy.
Rivera and offensive line coach John Matsko set the bar high, and at one point Rivera reamed out his offensive line.
“If you want to win ... football games, it starts up front!” he yelled.
Rivera, a former NFL linebacker with the Chicago Bears, was heard telling reserve linebacker Jared Norris to keep his head up. Several times.
Then, when defensive tackle Vernon Butler jumped offsides, Rivera stopped the drill and yelled, “That’s the ball, you’re right in front of it.”
Later, defensive coordinator Eric Washington was both thrilled and very vocal about a red-zone stand by his defense. His squad didn’t jump on the hard count, covered everyone up and Luke Kuechly almost had an interception.
Of course, quarterback Cam Newton, never one to be quiet, did his part to ramp up the competition.
On one red-zone drill play, Newton, who had nowhere to throw, ran the ball in for a score, then did the deep “evil genius” laugh.
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn got a little chippy about it.
“That wouldn’t be a touchdown (in a live tackling situation), bro!” Munnerlyn yelled.
They were still arguing as the drill continued.
Of course, the defense got some measure of revenge against Newton.
Safety Damien Parms came down with the first interception of a Newton pass in camp, stretching high to bring in an underthrown ball.
Other things we saw at practice on Thursday:
▪ The Panthers have seen a couple of players taken off the practice field on a cart this year. Thursday, one arrived on the cart — new offensive tackle Adam Bisnowaty, who quickly spent time meeting with offensive line coaches Matsko and Travelle Wharton.
▪ Rookie safety Rashaan Gaulden was back after spending Wednesday working on the side. Tight end Jason Vander Laan was not practicing (shoulder).
▪ Dezmen Southward getting some time with the first team in the red zone.
▪ The Panthers caught another weather break. Cloudy and downright cool for Sparkle City in the summer.
▪ Newton, during stretching, was singing a variation of a certain Guns ‘n Roses classic.
“Welcome to the jungle
We got fun and games
We’re too good to fumble
I put TD to shame”
▪ Kicker Graham Gano and punter Michael Palardy were playing hacky sack with a football on a field by themselves. When you are an NFL specialist, you have to find ways to amuse yourself at practice.
▪ Damiere Byrd, who Rivera says “makes a play every day,” made another one on a tightroping sideline catch. Someone in the crowd was making bird noises.
▪ Rookie wide receiver D.J. Moore got grazed by Munnerlyn and was a little shaken up, walking off with an athletic trainer. It didn’t appear serious at all, and Moore was back in quickly.
▪ Veteran wide receiver Torrey Smith was getting stretched by an athletic trainer during practice, then slowly walked to the sideline. It could have been cramps, as no contact was evident.
▪ Cornerback James Bradberry, who has had a good camp so far, came up with a textbook breakup against wide receiver Curtis Samuel.
▪ Devin Funchess won the first round against cornerback Donte Jackson in team drills.
▪ Rookie linebacker Jermaine Carter had a pass breakup on a ball intended for tight end Greg Olsen. Carter can really run.
▪ Kuechly also got a mitt on a Newton-thrown ball intended for Olsen but couldn’t come down with it, much to Newton’s delight. Newton has completed a lot of passes to Olsen over the past seven seasons, but they had trouble getting in sync Thursday.
▪ A nice run by fullback Alex Armah drew praise from Rivera.
▪ Running back Christian McCaffrey had a couple of nice snaps on inside run drills. One was a nice spin move, although Thomas Davis was not trying to tackle him to the ground.
▪ Newton threw a really nice deep ball to Samuel, who was positively giddy after making the catch.
The Panthers have Fanfest in Charlotte on Friday before a day off on Saturday.