Despite a citation for drug paraphernalia this week, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Stephen Hill has every opportunity to make the final roster, team general manager Dave Gettleman said Thursday.
Hill, a third-year receiver and former second-round pick, was cited Tuesday at a stop in Concord for possessing two grinders with marijuana residue and a marijuana bowl. Hill also admitted to the officer that he had smoked marijuana at his home earlier in the day, Concord Police Maj. Doug Wilhelm told the Observer Thursday.
Wilhelm said Hill was only cited and not arrested because he showed no signs of impairment at the stop.
Hill spoke with Gettleman Thursday morning “at length” as he reported to Panthers’ training camp at Wofford College.
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“He is obviously very remorseful for what happened,” Gettleman said. “He’s a terrific kid. He’s given us no indication since he’s been with us since September that this is who he is. He was very professional and he handled it very well. Right now we’re just going to let it go through the legal process.”
Gettleman said the best 53 players will make the final roster when asked if the citation would hurt Hill’s chances. Panthers coach Ron Rivera agreed.
“It doesn’t affect (his chances),” Rivera said. “I know there are situations and circumstances that we will let play out and see how things go. But as far as that’s concerned, he’ll have to deal with that process and we’ll react to that. But we’ll let the process take care of itself. We’ve got a job to do. … It’s a mistake, he made a mistake and he knows it.”
A 6-foot-4, 215-pound receiver, Hill had a disappointing first two seasons in the NFL with the Jets. The Panthers signed him to their practice squad last September, and he stayed there for the rest of the season.
Hill stood out in organized team activities and minicamp, and he comes to training camp fighting for one of the final receiver spots on the 53-man roster.
Tillman endures scary flight: Charles Tillman once thought a plane he was flying in over Iraq was being shot at, so the emergency landing in Indianapolis this week was nothing to worry about for him.
The veteran, entering his 13th season and first with the Panthers, was on an American Airlines flight Tuesday out of Chicago that had a fuel leak. The pilot landed the Charlotte-bound plane in Indianapolis where it was on for two hours before arriving in the Queen City.
Tillman said only one person on the flight seemed to panic while everyone else remained calm.
“Everybody else was calm, so I figured if they were cool, I should keep my cool,” Tillman said Thursday at training camp.
Then he dropped a reference to “The Exorcist.”
“If I saw someone spitting pea soup and her head started spinning, and kids are running around freaking out and screaming then, yeah, I probably would have been freaking out too.”
Tillman recalled the flight on which he thought he was going to meet his maker. On a USO trip to Iraq he participated in a combat landing as the plane wobbled in the air worse than any turbulence he had ever experienced.
“Our flares on the back of the plane, they popped, and the plane – a big C-130 Hercules – started doing this (whipping around),” Tillman explained. “That one scared me because I thought someone shot something at us because we started (nearly) doing barrel rolls. We did this combat landing and the guy was like, ‘Yeah, sometimes when it gets hot in the triple digits our flares go off. So no one shot anything at us, but good thing our flares work.
“I said, ‘OK, but that’s not what I’m telling everybody. I’m telling everybody they shot an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) at me.’ That was probably scarier than the fuel leak.”
Martin a no-show: Offensive tackle Jonathan Martin has yet to retire, but he didn’t show up for the first day of training camp either.
Martin did not file his retirement paperwork by 4 p.m. Thursday and he was placed on the reserve/did not report list for the Panthers.
Through his agent earlier this week, Martin, 25, announced his plans to retire after suffering a back injury during a July workout that might have required surgery or, at the least, rehab.
Gettleman admitted the news of Martin’s impending retirement came as a surprise, because Martin was slated to be the primary backup for starting left tackle Michael Oher.
“Jonathan had a good spring and we were looking forward to his return, and we’ll just keep moving on,” Gettleman said. “That’s what we do.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera had praised Martin’s performance in summer workouts, but he didn’t know exactly when the injury occurred.
“I do know this: He had a good OTAs and good minicamp,” Rivera said. “You heard me talk about him specifically. It’s a tough break. Any time a doctor says, ‘Hey, you may have to have surgery.’ I think that opens up eyes.”
The Panthers signed two offensive tackles, Tony Hills and Devonte Wallace, after the retirement revelation. Hills has been on eight teams since coming into the league in 2008. Wallace was an undrafted rookie last year who spent time with the Dolphins.
Rivera also plans to work Nate Chandler, Amini Silatolu and Daryl Williams at left tackle. Chandler is still returning from knee surgery and will be eased into camp. Silatolu is primarily a guard but flirted with the tackle position last year. And Williams, a rookie, spent nearly his entire college career and summer workouts at right tackle.
DeflateGate draws yawn: The NFL world continued its orbit around “Deflategate” as news continued to come out of controversy surrounding the New England Patriots, quarterback Tom Brady and deflated footballs.
The controversy was met with a sigh from tight end Greg Olsen, who, like many, believes it’s dragged on longer than it needs to.
“I think my initial reaction to the whole thing is it just seems like it’s been a huge mess over something relatively minor,” Olsen said. “And unfortunately now the whole thing apparently has to go to court, which is probably the last thing anybody wanted when this thing started in January.”
Olsen said cheating isn’t insignificant, but whether or not Brady and the Patriots cheated is still cloudy in his mind after the back-and-forths from the NFL and Patriots.
“Whether he did or not, I still think there’s a little gray area,” Olsen said. “I don’t think it was inconclusive or conclusive. I think it’s hard to say it definitely happened. They seem to think it did and they seem to think they have enough evidence to tip the decision that direction.”
Benjamin ready to go: As promised, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin showed up to training camp in good shape, the receiver and Rivera said.
Benjamin was slowed by two hamstring injuries in summer workouts, and Rivera posited the cause could have been the second-year receiver showing up overweight. According to a team source, the 6-foot-5 Benjamin was 8-to-9 pounds overweight when he reported in April.
But last week Benjamin said he would be in great shape for camp. And though Benjamin hadn’t yet stepped on the scale when he talked to reporters, Rivera seemed impressed with the receiver’s size.
“I know some guys came in in tremendous shape, most notably Kelvin,” Rivera said. “Very, very pleased at the effort a lot of our guys gave. Everybody hit their weights.”
Not all Panthers are healthy for the start of camp. Tight end Brandon Williams (groin) and receiver De’Andre Presley (shin) will start camp on the physically unable to perform list.
They can come off the list at any time during the preseason once they’re medically cleared.
J.C. Smith receiver signed: The Panthers added some local flavor to the roster in former Independence High and Johnson C. Smith wide receiver Avius Capers.
Capers, 5-9 and 180 pounds, attended Carolina’s rookie camp during the spring. With Presley on the physically unable to perform list, the Panthers looked to add more speed to their receiving corps.
Capers had 40 catches for 449 yards and two touchdowns for the Golden Bulls last year.
To make room, the Panthers released undrafted rookie cornerback Garry Peters, a former Clemson standout who had been bothered by a lingering hamstring injury since the spring.
Carolina also signed punter/kicker Matt Wile, who will take some of the wear and tear off kicker Graham Gano and punter Brad Nortman in camp.
Three questions with ...
Carolina Panthers rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess:
Q. Is (second-year wide receiver) Kelvin Benjamin one of the guys who’s been looking out for you early on?
A. “Yeah. He’s making sure I know all of my stuff and know where I’m supposed to be.”
Q. You’re from Michigan. It’s not even 9 a.m. here and you can already feel this stickiness. Is (the weather) something you’ve been prepared for, or is it a little more than you thought it’d be?
A. “It hasn’t been that humid up in Michigan, but it’s been hot. It was 93 yesterday and 90 the rest of the week. I’ve just been outside getting used to it.”
Q. Are there any tricks you can use to get used to it?
A. “Oh, no. There are no tricks. It’s Mother Nature at her best down here.”
Getting to know ...
Panthers wide receiver Damiere Byrd:
College: South Carolina.
NFL experience: Rookie.
The scoop: The undrafted speedster could be the fastest player on the team if you believe his 4.25-second 40-yard dash from his pro day. Byrd is also one of the smallest players on the team, so coaches will be looking to see how he works against press coverage since everyone knows he can outrun a defender. If he can win off the press, win in a hand fight with a defensive back and show he can take a hit or two during the three-week camp, Byrd could earn a spot on the team’s practice squad.
Twitter handle: @LookIn_Da_Miere
Recent tweet: The DMV gotta be the worst place invented.