Several of the Carolina Panthers’ key players spent this week working mostly on the side and watching during the three-day minicamp in Charlotte.
But Pro Bowl middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, No. 1 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and starting cornerback Bené Benwikere are expected to be ready for the start of training camp next month, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Thursday.
All three players are coming off different injuries and subsequent surgeries and their rehabilitations will continue to be handled on their own schedules.
But Rivera said he believes each will be cleared to begin practicing at Wofford without limitations.
“My understanding is that they’ll be ready to go,” Rivera said after wrapping up minicamp. “Now, will we handle each guy differently? Yes, most certainly in individual cases, yes. Luke with the shoulder, Bené with the ankle and Kelvin with the knee. Those guys will have a plan going forward and they’ll be involved from the very beginning.”
Benjamin, who set Panthers rookie receiving records in 2014, tore the ACL in his left knee last August in Spartanburg and sat out the entire season.
Benjamin jumped in for a play during team drills Thursday and ran a go route without making any cuts.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is looking for big things from Benjamin, who was Newton’s favorite target before his injury.
“Benji’s coming back with a vengeance. And I mean it,” Newton said.
Kuechly played through a torn labrum in his left shoulder before having surgery in February. The perennial All-Pro has said for the past couple of months he expected to be full-go when players report to training camp July 27.
Benwikere broke a bone above his left ankle in a December game against Atlanta and missed the rest of the regular season and postseason. Benwikere pushed a sled Thursday as part of his rehab, and said he does not plan to be on the physically unable to perform list.
“Nah, I’ll be good,” Benwikere said. “The way I felt today, I’ll be great.”