Five observations from Monday at Panthers training camp in Spartanburg:
1. Panthers coach Ron Rivera sounded very happy Monday afternoon that first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin only had a bone bruise and no structural damage in his knee. This is an injury that will require a little while to “calm down,” as Rivera kept saying, but it sounded like a matter of days, not of weeks. The Panthers dodged a bullet.
Nevertheless, I bet the Panthers will hold Benjamin out of the first preseason game Aug. 8 at home vs. Buffalo as a precaution. Benjamin has to be very good very quickly for Carolina, and the Panthers must be careful here.
2. I don’t think there’s any question Melvin White will start at one of the cornerback positions on opening day. White had an excellent day in coverage Monday.
3. The Panthers have turned quarterback Cam Newton into a dropback QB by design early in training camp as they try to keep him from testing that surgically repaired ankle too much. Newton said Monday that his ankle is a “semi-flat tire” that he is trying to pump back up. I thought Newton looked pretty sharp throwing the ball, though, even without Benjamin out there (he had gone to Charlotte to get his knee looked at). Newton put a couple of balls in good spots that weren’t caught, including a laser on a 20-yard slant that went right through the hands of Jerricho Cotchery.
4. You’ve got to love this guy’s name – and he can play a little, too. Carrington Byndom, an undrafted rookie cornerback from Texas, has had an interception in team drills in each of the past two days. Watch for him to do something in the fourth quarter of some preseason game.
5. Tiquan Underwood said the Panthers’ new wide receiving corps is leaning on veterans Jason Avant and Cotchery for advice. That hasn’t stopped them from teasing the two of them, though. Underwood said some receivers have taken to calling Avant and Cotchery “unc” (short for uncle) or “grandpa.”
Underwood also said something interesting about Benjamin. “Man, just a big guy, a great competitor – the sky is the limit for that kid,” Underwood said.