Carolina Panthers won't bite on Brandon LaFell's Patriots-practice-harder bait

jjones@charlotteobserver.comJune 11, 2014 

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and coach Ron Rivera didn’t need to be apprised Wednesday of recent comments by former Panthers receiver Brandon LaFell.

Newton and Rivera demurred when asked about LaFell, now with New England, saying the Patriots work “a little harder” than the Panthers.

“That’s Brandon,” said Newton, who added he’s happy for LaFell and his new three-year, $9 million contract with the Patriots. “If that’s how he feels, that’s how he feels.

“I will always say I beg to differ. But that’s just me talking. ... I feel as if the Carolina Panther way is we don’t do too much talking. We have to prove it.”

LaFell, who was drafted by the Panthers in 2010 and played his first four seasons with Carolina, said last week he was impressed with how New England quarterback Tom Brady demands the most out of the offense. When the Patriots signed him in March, LaFell said he meant no disrespect to Newton but he was glad to be able to play with a future Hall of Fame quarterback.

“The way we work, they way we practice, is all new (to me),” LaFell said last week. “It’s not like we didn’t work hard in Carolina, but we work a little harder here.”

Rivera didn’t say much, either.

“That’s fine. He’s in New England. That’s his opinion,” Rivera said. “I’m not going to comment on a guy who’s not here anymore. I love the guy, he was a great player for us, and you move on.

“I think we work hard. I think we do exactly what we need to do. We do things we’re supposed to when we come out to practice and we work to get better.”

Neither Newton or Rivera have been with the Patriots, but Panthers safety Roman Harper has. In 2010 and 2012, the Patriots would practice against the Saints – Harper’s former team – before they played a preseason game.

He said he didn’t see anything special about the way New England practiced compared to New Orleans or Carolina.

“(Practicing hard) doesn’t guarantee you any wins at the end of the day,” Harper said. “That doesn’t guarantee you anything. It guarantees you opportunity that you might have a chance. I’ve actually practiced against the Patriots. They practice just like pretty much everybody else. It’s nothing too crazy. I know New Orleans practices hard. I feel competitiveness-wise, we definitely get after it (in Carolina). We compete every day.”

Hardy watch: Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy did not participate with the team at Wednesday’s OTA practice.

Instead, he stayed inside the team facilities and nursed his legs, a process coach Ron Rivera dubbed “maintenance” rather than rehab.

“There’s no surgery, no major injury or anything,” Rivera said. “He should be on the field tomorrow.”

Rivera noted Hardy had a knee injury history and, because it’s the offseason, Rivera said he wanted to be cautious with one of the team’s highest-paid players.

In the previous two OTA sessions open to the media, Hardy was a force on the field and was commended for his play by Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman. The Panthers used the franchise tag on Hardy earlier this offseason, and the fifth-year player will receiver $13.1 million in 2014.

Last month he was arrested on charges of assault on a female and communicating threats. Hardy has not spoken to the media since his arrest. He has a court date for June 27.

Norman turns heads: Cornerback Josh Norman has resumed his yearly preseason interception tour, and this year he has started in OTAs.

Norman had a fantastic one-handed interception Wednesday, adding to his reputation of being a star in camp but leaving the coaching staff wanting more come September.

On a long Derek Anderson pass intended for Toney Clemons, Norman caught up to the overthrown ball and extended his left hand to intercept the pass while falling to the ground. Later in the day he broke up a pass intended for Marcus Lucas.

Norman had four interceptions in a day in 2012 at training camp. Last year he led the NFL with four interceptions in the preseason. But he played in only seven games last year after struggling early in the regular season.

Observations

•  Guard Chris Scott missed practice for conditioning, health and “some other things,” Rivera said. Scott left practice early two weeks ago after overheating. Rookie Trai Truner started at right guard for most of practice.

•  Guard Edmund Kugbila worked on the sideline with a trainer for the entire practice. He has not participated in practice since having MCL and PCL surgery last year. Fullback Michael Zordich (ACL) also worked on the side.

•  Mario Addison got the majority of first-team reps at defensive end in place of Hardy.

•  Cornerback Melvin White had a tight hip flexor midway through practice. Norman and Josh Thomas split first-team snaps in his place.

•  Receiver Tavarres King had a nice catch on the sideline. On a pass from Derek Anderson, King got both feet down on an out route with Bene’ Benwikere in coverage.

•  Receiver Brenton Bersin showed nice hands throughout the day.

•  Undrafted rookies Carrington Byndom and David Foucault had rough outings Wednesday. Byndon, a cornerback, fell down in coverage on a completion to Tiquan Underwood and, on the next play, allowed another completion to Philly Brown. Later, quarterback Joe Webb sidestepped him on a keeper. Foucault, a tackle, couldn’t handle defensive end Wes Horton, who beat him badly on one play and then blocked him to the ground on the next play.

•  Tackle Byron Bell played through a leg injury late in the day. Running back DeAngelo Williams called for a substitute before Bell shook off the injury and played the next snap.

•  Safety Colin Jones had two interceptions on the day. He intercepted Matt Blanchard on a pass he juggled until he secured it going to the ground. Later he picked off Blanchard again on a deep pass for Bersin that was tipped by James Dockery.

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9

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