BRADENTON, Fla. — The Panthers have had four quarterbacks on the field this week at IMG Academy, although the big, broad-shouldered guy has yet to throw a pass.
Chris Weinke, who won a Heisman Trophy at 28 with Florida State and spent six years with the Panthers, is 40 now and running the football division at IMG.
Weinke has kept close ties with the Panthers. He trained their past two first-round draft picks – quarterback Cam Newton and linebacker Luke Kuechly – at IMG, the sprawling, 450-acre complex that started as a tennis academy.
So Weinke was excited when the Panthers picked IMG as their practice site with the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
“This is the organization that gave me a chance to play in the NFL. I still have great relationships with people within that organization,” Weinke said Thursday. “I have a number of guys that are currently on the roster that I played with and have relationships with. And the opportunity for them to come down here, I’m just sitting back taking it all in.”
Weinke has caught up this week with general manager Marty Hurney, offensive lineman Jordan Gross and receiver Steve Smith, who was part of the same 2000 draft class with Weinke.
The Panthers brought two truckloads of equipment and supplies from Charlotte, and have been using IMG’s fields, weight room and – in the case of rehabbing running back Jonathan Stewart and offensive lineman Jeff Byers – its swimming pool.
“I think what we’ve provided them is quality,” Weinke said. “And if there’s one team that I want to see have success, it’s this team.”
Stewart still sidelined: Stewart, who has a sprained right ankle, had a busy day. He ran and caught a couple of passes on the sideline, before doing his underwater running in the pool.
But he still hasn’t practiced since before the Jets’ exhibition Aug. 26. The Panthers will see how Stewart feels Friday morning and determine his status for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.
“The nice thing is he’s had a good training camp. So what he’s missing really is just the actual practice,” coach Ron Rivera said. “He’s been in all the meetings and walkthroughs. Now it’s just a matter of what he can tolerate.”
Rivera said the Panthers have a game plan ready if Stewart doesn’t play. But he would not specify whether the plan meant more snaps for fullback Mike Tolbert, who rushed for 1,410 yards in four seasons with San Diego.
Butch Davis’ new gig: Former North Carolina coach Butch Davis is on new Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano’s staff, though not in a coaching capacity. Davis, 60, fired from UNC in July 2011 amid an NCAA investigation into impermissible academic assistance and agent-player benefits, is the Bucs’ special assistant to the head coach.
Schiano was Davis’ defensive coordinator at the University of Miami from 1999 to 2000.
“Butch is a big help. He’s not coaching any position. He’s kind of just observing and helping me with personnel,” Schiano said. “He’s just kind of shared his experiences with me since we come from a similar background.”
Davis was fired after coaching the Tar Heels four seasons, two of which had all of its wins vacated. He is due a $2.7 million contract buyout from UNC by 2015 if he does not accept a college or pro coaching job.
Ron Green Jr. and Jonathan Jones contributed.