Tom Sorensen

For the Carolina Panthers, there are reasons 2018 feels like a season of hope

Carolina Panthers minicamp recap: Here’s what's coming at training camp

Carolina Panthers minicamp concluded June 14, 2018 after three days in the heat. Observer beat writers Joe Person and Jourdan Rodrigue recap what happened for the team and what to look forward to going into training camp in July.
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Carolina Panthers minicamp concluded June 14, 2018 after three days in the heat. Observer beat writers Joe Person and Jourdan Rodrigue recap what happened for the team and what to look forward to going into training camp in July.

The last time somebody left a Charlotte major league franchise as quietly as Tina Becker left the Panthers this week was when former first-round draft pick Adam Morrison left the Charlotte Bobcats.

Morrison was the third player selected in the 2006 NBA draft. He was not good.

Becker was the Panthers COO and we have no idea how effective she was. When Jerry Richardson stepped down, he appointed her to step up. Her work with the Panthers was as stealthy as Morrison’s was with the Bobcats. But she likely had a better jump shot.

Becker resigned Monday when David Tepper became the Panthers owner.

This is an odd time to be a fan of the NFL because there’s a rare dead zone for most teams, except for the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore rookies reported to training camp Wednesday, and veterans will join them July 18. They train in Owings Mills, Md., a Baltimore suburb, at the Under Armour Performance Center.

The Ravens and Chicago Bears get to start early because they play in the Hall of Fame Game Aug. 2. Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

The Panthers’ first practice in Spartanburg, S.C., is July 26. That’s rookies and veterans.

Until then, Carolina fans kill time by asking how the Panthers will do this season. My answer is consistent. I have no idea. I need to see the team in camp, see how the rookies and new veterans assimilate with the players Carolina has.

Until then, this feels like a season of hope. The Panthers are as fast as they have ever been. Former Panther Steve Smith Sr. once called me to say that he’d like to see the team add speed, even if the player they added was faster than he was. I was at Daytona International Speedway, and scrambled to find a place quiet enough to hear Smith without noise from cars or fans.

Smith wouldn’t have to make the call this season. At minicamp, the quality that jumped out, and kept on going, was speed. It’s not as if the Panthers are running a relay. But it is a great quality to have.

CurtisSamuel-tom
Curtis Samuel, a second-round selection out of Ohio State in 2017, was limited at minicamp. But he’s run a 4.3, and his acceleration immediately moves from first step to fly down the field. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

There are a lot of players about which I’m curious. One of them is Curtis Samuel. Samuel, a second-round selection out of Ohio State in 2017, was limited at minicamp. But he’s run a 4.3, and his acceleration immediately moves from first step to fly down the field.

I also want to see veteran receiver Torrey Smith, who also has run a 4.3, and rookie first-round pick D.J. Moore. You know Moore. He’s 6-0 and 210 pounds, but he goes up for the ball as if it’s his, and doesn’t care who is in the way.

Who does quarterback Cam Newton choose? Which receivers will earn his confidence and trust?

I’m a proponent of camp. You will never get as close to the team as you will there. You’ll see players you’ve never heard of that are outstanding. If you’re like me, you’ll write about them. And then they’ll get cut.

I’m not counting down the days until camp. I’m counting down the days until I go on vacation. Spartanburg will be waiting when I return.

Maybe see you there.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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