Carolina Panthers

Panthers Fan Fest practice highlights: Harmony restored. New twists on offense?

For a day, Korben Senden, 13, gets wish to be a Carolina Panther

The Carolina Panthers "signed" Korben Senden, 13, to a one-day contract through the Make-A-Wish program for Fan Fest. Fellow wide receiver Torrey Smith was Senden's host.
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The Carolina Panthers "signed" Korben Senden, 13, to a one-day contract through the Make-A-Wish program for Fan Fest. Fellow wide receiver Torrey Smith was Senden's host.

Quarterback Cam Newton and tight end Greg Olsen were not on the same page Thursday at Wofford, where they couldn’t quite connect on a couple of passes.

But they were in sync at Friday’s Fan Fest, where Olsen was hauling in passes all over the field.

Olsen wasn’t worried about Thursday’s showing, saying linebacker Luke Kuechly had done a nice job breaking up one of the passes and pointing out that he and Newton have had a strong training camp under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

“We’ve caught a lot of balls this camp, probably as many as we ever have. We’ve caught a lot of balls over the years. So we have a good feel for each other,” Olsen said after the practice.

“I feel like it’s been one of our better camps we’ve had, personally, collectively as an offense,” he added. “It’s been fun to go through the whole process and see what kind of new little twists (Turner) can put on the offense.”

The Panthers are off Saturday before returning to Spartanburg on Sunday for an afternoon practice.

Friday night was also the Christian McCaffrey Show, with the running back scoring five touchdowns. However, to be fair, if full contact were allowed he might have run into a couple of brick walls during his path to the end zone courtesy of the Panthers’ first-team defense.

A Carolina Panthers fan, identified by his alter ego of “Willie Jankins,” dances to the music being pumped through Bank of America Stadium at Friday's Fan Fest.

Fans hoping to see a new Panthers logo unveiled at midfield instead were greeted by ... nothing. Former owner Jerry Richardson had the NFL shield at midfield throughout his tenure as a gesture for the league awarding the Carolinas an expansion franchise. But several members of the team’s public relations staff retweeted a picture this week of new owner David Tepper walking through a logo-less midfield, with comments hinting at a possible change.

The lead-up continued following Friday’s practice with a videotaped message from Newton imploring Tepper to put the Panthers’ logo at midfield. The Panthers’ first preseason home game is Aug. 17 vs. Miami.

New Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper makes an appearance at Friday’s Fan Fest at Bank of America Stadium. Jourdan Rodrigue

Tepper was on the sideline during Fan Fest. But — like the opening-night practice at Wofford — he did not address fans or media. He did, however, bring his dog and interacted quite a bit with fans. Funnily enough, the Panthers’ new owner had to wear a credential to get onto the field, prompting head coach Ron Rivera to joke after the practice that Tepper would soon start to be recognized by personnel around the building.

It was a decent turnout for the annual public practice, but not as big as previous Fan Fest crowds. This could have been due to the heavy downpours in some areas around Charlotte — or the $5 admission fee.

No. 1 wideout Devin Funchess fired up the crowd with an NBA All-Star game-type move. Funchess pulled in a Newton pass and — as a defender reached to try to punch the ball out — flipped it behind his back to switch hands and take off downfield. It was probably his best play of training camp so far.

Rookie TE Ian Thomas only had a couple of drops during the first week at Spartanburg. He almost had another during the first segment of team drills, before making a juggling catch on a Newton pass between reserve safeties Colin Jones and Damian Parms.

Carolina Panthers fans were treated to a fireworks and laser show after the team's Fan Fest at Bank of America Stadium.

A few minutes later Thomas bobbled a pass along the sideline, with the field judge correctly ruling it an incompletion.

Undrafted free agent LB Chris Frey completely stuffed former Charlotte Catholic and North Carolina RB Elijah Hood at the goal line. Linebackers coach Steve Russ, one of the more excitable assistants on Ron Rivera’s staff, absolutely loved it.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said second-year tight end/fullback Alex Armah had a leg bruise that swelled a little, so decided to hold him out of the practice as a precaution.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney and college scout Jeff Beathard will be in Canton for Saturday’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Longtime GM Bobby Beathard, Jeff’s father, is being enshrined as a contributor after building Super Bowl teams at Washington and San Diego. He hired Hurney while at Washington in 1988 (away from a sportswriting career) and the two also worked together with the Chargers.

Korben Senden gets help with his uniform from Carolina Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith (11) during Friday’s Fan Fest practice. The team, in partnership with Make-A-Wish Foundation, granted Korben’s wish “to be a Carolina Panther.” Senden, 13, is from Eagle Ridge, Alaska. David T. Foster III

Another Panthers contingent will be in Canton supporting former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher. Rivera, who was Chicago’s defensive coordinator when Urlacher played, and former Bears Julius Peppers and Olsen all are flying to Ohio for the induction ceremonies.

Korben Senden, who is from Alaska, had quite a day with the Panthers as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Senden signed a one-day contract to be a Carolina receiver and hung out for most of the day with fellow receiver Torrey Smith and met several players. He also had a mock press conference in which he discussed his contract negotiations with Hurney. Senden’s favorite band is Queen, and the Panthers made sure to play “Bohemian Rhapsody” during the post-practice fireworks and laser show.

Senden ran in the last touchdown of the practice, prompting Newton to scoop him up on his shoulder and run with him through the end zone.

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue
Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson


With Bobby Beathard as general manager, the Washington Redskins played in three Super Bowls, winning two, and the San Diego Chargers appeared in one.