No Carolina Panthers player made more plays Saturday than Shaq Thompson.
The former first-round pick caused two turnovers for the defense on an overcast and sometimes rainy practice.
Thompson, a second-year linebacker, stripped fullback Mike Tolbert during a run drill in the first padded practice of camp.
His other forced turnover asked for more athleticism. During team drills, Thompson trailed tight end Greg Olsen as quarterback Cam Newton floated a touch pass to him.
Thompson was able to get a hand on the ball and tip it up to himself, make the interception and get a slight return.
“Shaq’s really come a long way. We saw that as the season ended last year,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after practice. “You saw him start stepping up and making plays. He’s picked up where he left off, which is great. His recall of what we’re doing on the defensive side is outstanding. And the way he’s been practicing has been good.”
After a slow start acclimating to the league, Thompson picked up his play in December. Twenty-three of his 61 tackles came in the final four regular-season games, and he started all three postseason contests.
He’ll be the starting outside linebacker opposite Thomas Davis this season, and the Panthers could use him again in more subpackages.