The Panthers wrapped up the first week of preseason practice at Fan Fest at Bank of America Stadium with what is likely their last physical practice before the season.
Carolina coach Ron Rivera said he was very pleased with how his Panthers performed in front of an announced crowd of 20,134 on Saturday, especially coming after one of the toughest practices of training camp.
“It’s been a long week, and yesterday was a tough day,” Rivera said. “It was hot and a little muggy and the day kind of dragged. I was kind of hoping they’d come out and the crowd would bring a little bit of energy and it did. The guys reacted and I thought it was a good day of practice all around.”
On Friday, three Panthers saw their practices end early with various injuries. Charles Johnson and Frank Alexander both had tight backs, while Domenik Hixon suffered from leg cramps.
Johnson and Hixon sat out Saturday, and so did starting left guard Amini Silatolu with a strained groin.
Those non-contact injuries are the kind Rivera and his staff have tried to avoid with an emphasis on hydration, as well as a few tweaks to the camp schedule to help avoid soft-tissue injuries. Changes to the collective bargaining agreement gave players a day off on Wednesday, and they won’t have to report to camp until curfew on Sunday night.
Now the physical part of camp is over, Rivera said, and the focus is on keeping players healthy with the regular season a month away.
“We’ll never really get into the pads from this point on,” Rivera said. “The big thing now is trying to keep guys as fresh as possible. This physical part of camp was important to set the tone and tempo for who we want to be.”
But Saturday’s practice wasn’t without its hits or diving catches. Starting right tackle Byron Bell got into it with two different defensive linemen. Bell had some after-drill shoving matches with Frank Alexander and Craig Roh, and the latter scrum had an intervention by teammates and coaches.
Receiver Armanti Edwards continued to make his case for the No. 3 receiver position. He brought in a deep Cam Newton pass over his back shoulder while being covered by Captain Munnerlyn and taken to the ground.
“I’m really excited to see him when we get to actually playing the football games in the preseason,” Rivera said. “And I hope it does translate because he’s earned it.
“When you’re out there running around in shorts and T-shirts you never really get to see the contact. Here, the contact is about 75 percent but you still get to see him catch the ball with people flying around.”