Carolina Panthers

On Day 1, WR Kelvin Benjamin shows Panthers what they have missed

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin catches a pass during practice on Thursday at Wofford College in Spartanburg. It was the first time he participated in team drills since tearing his ACL last summer.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin catches a pass during practice on Thursday at Wofford College in Spartanburg. It was the first time he participated in team drills since tearing his ACL last summer. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Nearly a year after tearing a knee ligament on an adjacent field, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin was back at Wofford College doing what he does best – catching the ball.

Benjamin’s first reception during team drills Thursday was a shaky one – he bobbled a Cam Newton pass on a slant route before corralling it. And the 6-5 wideout was breathing heavily after a couple of drills.

But it was a big step in his recovery for the Panthers’ top receiver.

“Happy to be back out here,” Benjamin said to a friend following the two-hour practice at Gibbs Stadium.

The Panthers were glad to have him back as well.

“It could be a good harbinger in terms of seeing Kelvin – I don’t want to say in top form – but pretty doggone good form,” Ron Rivera said. “He’s still got a ways to go in terms of getting in game shape. But it’s really good to see him moving around.”

Benjamin tore his ACL last August at Wofford during a 1-on-1 drill against a Miami Dolphins defensive back. He was sidelined throughout the Panthers’ Super Bowl season and participated in individual drills, but not team work during OTAs and minicamp during the spring.

Benjamin caught several passes over the middle during team periods. And though he had trouble hanging on to a couple of fade passes from Newton when the two were working on their own, receivers coach Ricky Proehl was pleased with Benjamin’s night.

“With Kelvin, just happy for him. It’s a confidence-builder. To go out and perform like he did, make catches over the middle, make contested catches with someone draped on him, I felt was huge,” Proehl said. “Any time you get that first catch out of the way is huge, especially coming off an injury.”

Proehl also was pleased with the play of receivers Stephen Hill and Philly Brown. Hill tore his ACL during the first week of training camp last year, and Brown is coming off offseason shoulder surgery.

“After you run your first play and you get to cutting and stuff, you already get that confidence,” Hill said. “It definitely helped out.”

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