Carolina Panthers

Panthers cornerback Bene’ Benwikere returns to practice after missing first week

Carolina Panthers cornerback Daryl Worley, left, hand checks cornerback Bene Benwikere during a drill on Wednesday in Spartanburg.
Carolina Panthers cornerback Daryl Worley, left, hand checks cornerback Bene Benwikere during a drill on Wednesday in Spartanburg. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Panthers cornerback Bene’ Benwikere practiced Wednesday for the first time since December and could be headed back to his old position.

Benwikere played mostly nickel back last season before breaking a bone above his ankle against Atlanta in Week 14. While he recovered from surgery during the offseason, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the plan was to move Benwikere to outside corner.

But the strong play of rookie cornerbacks James Bradberry and Daryl Worley at the outside spots give the Panthers flexibility with Benwikere.

“You look at what the young guys are doing and how they’re doing, we’ve got them pretty much set at left and right,” Rivera said. “But Bene’s a versatile guy. He plays the slot as well in nickel situations. We’ll work him and see how things unfold, and we’re going to play the best guys out there.”

Bradberry, the second-round pick from Samford, and third-round pick Daryl Worley have been working at the left and right corners, respectively. Fifth-rounder Zack Sanchez has played primarily nickel.

Benwikere spent the first week of training camp on the physically unable to perform list with lingering pain in his lower leg. And while Benwikere was back on the field at Wofford, the team still plans to ease him back into the rotation.

“I asked him how he felt and he said looking pretty good, and I said looking pretty rusty, which he knows,” Rivera said. “He’s just going to keep working and hopefully work himself back into it. We try to do it gradually. We don’t want to throw him out there and try to get 35-40 reps out of him.

“I thought some of his movement was really good. But you could see he was thinking with some of the calls because he hasn’t worked since last season.”

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