Charles Johnson wants to hit someone – and get hit – before the Carolina Panthers open the regular season against Jacksonville on Sept. 13.
The ninth-year defensive end practiced in team drills for the first time since straining his calf at training camp on Aug. 9. Whether it’s Friday against the Patriots or next Thursday at Pittsburgh in Carolina’s final exhibition, Johnson wants to play in the preseason.
“I feel like I do,” Johnson said of needing preseason snaps. “I feel like the first time I get on the field I don’t want it to be Jacksonville.”
Johnson only participated in a handful of team drills Wednesday, taking a step up from Tuesday’s work, where he did individual and positional drills before going on the adjacent field and working on his strength and conditioning.
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He worked with trainers Wednesday before practice and then lifted in the weight room after practice. Rivera said, like always, it will depend on how Johnson reacts to the work the following morning that will determine whether he plays against New England.
What Rivera does not want is a repeat of last preseason. Johnson strained his hamstring twice last preseason and only got 27 snaps in the second exhibition before being shut down for the rest of preseason.
“You don’t want their first live contact to be the opener, and unfortunately that’s what we had last year with Charles,” Rivera said. “We want to be smart about it because we want to make sure he’s ready to roll because he’s such an important part of what we do defensively. Getting him some reps whether it be this weekend or Thursday is going to be very important.”
Fellow defensive lineman Star Lotulelei appeared at practice for the first time since suffering a stress reaction in his surgically repaired right foot early in training camp. He did work on a stationary bike throughout practice and left before the end of practice.
Rookie receiver Devin Funchess (hamstring) did work in team drills, as did tight end Brandon Williams (groin). Williams is now off the preseason physically unable to perform list.
Center Ryan Kalil (knee) and fullback/tight end Richie Brockel (shoulder) were not at practice for a third straight day.