Carolina Panthers

Kelvin Benjamin’s back, but Panthers lose to Ravens 22-19

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, left, catches a pass from quarterback Cam Newton as Baltimore Ravens cornerback Shareece Wright, right, looks to make the tackle during Thursday’s preseason game in Baltimore. The Panthers lost 22-19.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, left, catches a pass from quarterback Cam Newton as Baltimore Ravens cornerback Shareece Wright, right, looks to make the tackle during Thursday’s preseason game in Baltimore. The Panthers lost 22-19. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

It had been 362 days since Kelvin Benjamin caught a pass in a game of any kind.

Naturally, he wanted a little more.

“It felt great,” Benjamin said Thursday. “I didn’t want to come off the field actually.”

Benjamin returned in Carolina’s 22-19 loss exhibition against the Baltimore Ravens nearly one year after tearing his ACL in training camp and losing out on the 2015 season.

He caught one pass for 5 yards from Cam Newton and his day was done.

“I just really wanted to get on the field, move around and compete,” Benjamin said. “And I think I did that.”

Panthers coach Ron Rivera has promised to be smart with Benjamin in the preseason. That means giving him regular days off in training camp and limiting his repetitions in exhibitions.

Three who mattered

Eric Crume: The first-year defensive tackle had a strong game. He had two consecutive good pass rushes in the second quarter and then forced a fumble and recovered it late in the third quarter.

Devin Funchess: He scored the touchdown of the game for Carolina when he caught Derek Anderson’s back-shoulder throw in the second quarter.

Damiere Byrd: Byrd took the kick and punt return duties from Ted Ginn Jr. had a kickoff return for 48 yards in the second quarter. He also brought in a 35-yard catch on third down with one hand in the third quarter. He did muff the final punt, but Panthers coach Ron Rivera said it was a young guy trying to make a play.

Worth mentioning

▪  M&T Bank Stadium showed Ravens’ fan Michael Phelps’ 200-meter IM win against Ryan Lochte on the videoboards during a break in the fourth quarter. Every player for both teams watched as Phelps won his 22nd gold medal. “That’s a big deal,” Newton said. “Let’s just say, there aren’t too many athletes that are going to have the world stop, so to speak, just to watch them. We had a real, live football game going on and everyone just stopped and looked at him.”

▪  Receiver Brenton Bersin had the biggest receiving night of any player, but he left the game in the second quarter with a rib injury. It’s unclear the extent of the injury for Bersin, who caught five passes for 69 yards, but he will have an MRI this weekend.

▪  While James Bradberry and Daryl Worley got most of the first-team reps in the first half, rookie cornerback Zack Sanchez didn’t see the defensive side of the field until late in the third quarter. Sanchez, who Rivera said played a “little tentative” early, worked at outside corner as the Panthers used Shaq Thompson and Colin Jones in their nickel packages.

▪  David Foucault didn’t do much to prove his worth Thursday. In the 2-minute drill at the end of the first half, Foucault allowed Derek Anderson to be hit twice on speed rushes at left tackle. Also, the interior of the second-team offensive line gave up more pressure than Rivera would have liked to see.

They said it

▪  “It was a Cover Two drop and the receiver bobbled it and it landed right in my lap. Luckily I made one guy miss and I had about five or six blockers behind me that picked up anybody else that was coming to get me.” – Linebacker A.J. Klein on the pick-six that wasn’t.

▪  “I asked them leading up to the game if they were excited and they kept telling me no. I knew they were lying. And I asked them after the first two series and they said they were excited.” – Safety Kurt Coleman on rookie corners Bradberry and Worley.

▪  “It was good. The first one, you’ve got to make sure that you remember how to do it again. The first few run plays the guys up front did a good job. ... It was a good, crisp series for us. A good way to start the preseason.” – Linebacker Luke Kuechly.

The Carolina Panthers play their first preseason game of the new season vs the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Jonathan Jones: 704-358-5323, @jjones9

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