SPARTANBURG — Sidelined with leg cramps that turned into a hamstring injury last week, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Domenik Hixon estimates he’s still a week away from participating in practice.
The Panthers signed Hixon this offseason to compete for the No. 3 wide receiver position after the departure of Louis Murphy in free agency. But Hixon has seen very little of the practice field since spring workouts.
At minicamp, he dealt with a left hamstring strain that kept him on the exercise bike most of the time. At Wofford, he’s been nursing his right hamstring.
“This is the first time I’ve had hamstring issues, so I’m trying to figure it out,” Hixon said. “Trying to gauge it has probably been the toughest thing for me.”
Though the hamstring injuries are a first for Hixon, lower-body injuries are not. He broke his left foot during his college pro day in 2006, tore his right ACL in 2010 and 2011, and was sidelined last year with the Giants by an ankle injury.
Hixon was considered the favorite for the No. 3 receiver job this spring, but his hamstring troubles have allowed players such as Ted Ginn Jr. and Armanti Edwards to get the bulk of No. 3 reps.
Hixon said he believes he’ll still get enough reps this preseason to get his timing down with quarterbacks Cam Newton and Derek Anderson, but he knows time is running out.
“Yeah, I’d like to say even the next day, tomorrow, try to take it one day at a time,” Hixon said. “You go out there too early and have something happen, it could be even more devastating than a strain.”
CHANDLER IMPROVING: As injuries mount on the Panthers’ offensive line, Nate Chandler may see his role as backup left tackle increase.
Chandler played reserve defensive lineman last year, but with Carolina’s depth at that position, the coaching staff switched him to the other side this offseason.
The second-year player saw 23 snaps at left tackle Friday night against the Bears, tied with Hayworth Hicks for the most snaps by a reserve offensive lineman.
“He’s an athletic guy, very physical at the point (of attack),” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. “He played very well the other night. His run-blocking stood out, and you see his athleticism; he’s learning the technique at left tackle.”
Beyond starter Jordan Gross, the Panthers are shallow at left tackle. Bruce Campbell will require surgery on his rotator cuff and may be out for the season. Tuesday, the Panthers moved right tackle Byron Bell to left tackle and Garry Williams slid to right tackle, while Jeff Byers moved to right guard.
ROAD READY: Rivera said he was pleased with the team’s training camp overall but would have liked to see players stay focused in the final hour at Wofford.
“We slowed down at the end, and unfortunately I think the guys were thinking about I-85,” Rivera said. “But the beginning of practice was really good, real smooth, a lot of good things happened. Then you could kind of tell they were a little bit wandering. I wish they could have finished practice and focused all the way through.”
In a passionate speech after practice, Rivera told his players the team “can’t have distractions” before Thursday night’s game at Philadelphia.
“I know this is our move, we’ll be back in Charlotte the next time we get together, and we got to be able to stay focused as we get ready to go up to Philadelphia,” Rivera said.
SNAP COUNT: Rivera estimated Newton and the rest of the first-stringers will see the field for roughly 20 snaps Thursday night against the Eagles.
Last week against the Bears, Newton and the first-team offense saw 12 official snaps (13 including a pass-interference play), and the offense had 37 net yards, including one touchdown and an interception returned for a touchdown.
In last year’s second preseason game against Miami, Newton played in 23 snaps and finished 8-for-11 for 119 yards and one touchdown.
• Josh Norman made a great one-handed interception in the corner of the end zone during red zone drills. Norman seemed to hold onto the ball as he went to the ground after defending Ginn in coverage.
• Tight end Brandon Williams hauled in a Hail Mary from Cam Newton, though the defense didn’t put up much of a fight. After the catch, Ryan Kalil and Jordan Gross flexed their biceps for the tight end nicknamed “Swole Bones.”
• Tight end Zack Pianalto was in pads for the first time since the Panthers signed him two weeks ago. He had been nursing a quad injury.
• A heavy rain in Spartanburg on Monday night meant a soaked Wofford practice field. That kept guys from going 100percent at practice Tuesday.
• David Gettis made a nice sideline catch from Newton during a two-minute drill. It made up for his drop early in practice on a slant, when the first-team offense went against the third-team defense.
• Defensive tackle Frank Kearse missed practice Tuesday with an injured knee, Rivera said.
• As the return team assembled in the back of the end zone, Ginn walked from the sideline to two returners and jokingly shouted, “Y’all need some help?”
Three questions with TE Greg Olsen
Q. How do you think camp went overall?
A. I think the last three weeks, we got a lot accomplished. I think what we wanted to get done when we first got here, when we reported, we needed to take that next step. We’ve got one preseason game under our belt. We got a quick turnaround now. Break camp today, travel tomorrow. So we’ll learn a lot about ourselves preparation-wise going into Thursday.
Q. From a tight end perspective, what did you think of Brandon Williams?
A. He did a good job for a guy that really started from scratch. He’s got to continue to learn and continue to get reps. That’s the only way you learn is by getting out there, make mistakes and go through it. You can only learn so much on the chalkboard. But he’s really done a remarkable job, considering where he started from and missing all of OTAs with the (knee) injury. He’s been a really nice, pleasant surprise.
Q. How did it go with the new offensive terminology?
A. I think that was a seamless transition from the old terminology. It was slight. It wasn’t anything too major. But I think it was a welcomed change, something that guys really responded well to – getting the call in the huddle, getting the words out, getting the huddle broken, get up to the (line) and let’s go. Turn our tempo a little bit is something we’ve talked about.
Getting to know…
DE Mario Addison
NFL experience: Third year.
The scoop: Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson have the two defensive end positions locked up, but Addison had a strong training camp and showed that he and Frank Alexander are more than capable of handling backup duties for Carolina.
Twitter handle: @HIT_STIQ4
Recent tweet: Time is always right wen it’s time 2 do right