The Panthers made it through their final practice of training camp Thursday without any fights or serious injuries, which was a welcome change after Wednesday’s proceedings.
A day after wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin was lost for the season and left tackle Michael Oher brawled with Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon, the Panthers and Dolphins wrapped up the second of two joint practices without incident.
The teams will meet again Saturday at Bank of America Stadium. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he expects to play his starters 20 to 25 plays in the second exhibition game.
Rivera addressed Benjamin’s injury with the team Wednesday night after Benjamin’s MRI revealed he’d torn the ACL in his left knee.
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“I made mention of it to the players and we talked about the opportunity created. We don’t want these things to happen but when they do, somebody has to step up and take advantage of it,” Rivera said. “It’s not about us being one player as much as it is about us being a team.”
Rivera gave several veterans the day off Thursday, a group that included center Ryan Kalil, running back Jonathan Stewart, defensive backs Charles Tillman and Roman Harper and linebacker Thomas Davis.
Backup offensive tackle Nate Chandler left drills early with soreness in his surgically repaired knee.
Despite Wednesday’s fight and injuries to Benjamin and Dolphins safety Louis Delmas, both coaches thought the joint practices were a success.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was eager to see how his offense fared against middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and the rest of Carolina’s top-10 defense.
“As I said to the team when I first talked to them, I love the way they play defense – they play fast and hard. I love Kuechly,” Philbin said.
“Part of the reason why we came down here is to see if we could get a hat on Kuechly, see if we could block him in space. I think we’ve had mixed results,” Philbin said, laughing. “But I think it’s just a well-run football team – their general manager (Dave Gettleman) is a class guy, Ron’s obviously done a great job, they’ve been to the playoffs two years in a row. So I thought it was real positive.”
Turner improves in Day 2
Second-year right guard Trai Turner rebounded nicely Thursday to have a much-improved day against Miami defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
“I thought Trai had a real good day,” Rivera said. “The tough thing for Trai is it was Ndamukong. He’s special.
“I really got a chance to watch (Suh) yesterday 1-on-1s and there was one he was unbelievable. I don’t care who the guard was, he was winning. Then today got a chance to really watch and I thought he did some really good things.”
Turner said he liked going up against Suh because it made him better.
“When I did well it showed things that I can do well,” said Turner, who last year did not allow a sack. “When I didn’t do so hot it showed things that I didn’t do so hot, so it’s a win-win for me. I get to fix things that I’m not good at and show my talents also.”
The good news the day after Kelvin Benjamin’s injury is it was only the ACL that will need repairing, the Panthers believe.
Rivera said you never know until you go into surgery, but the thought is that no other ligaments were damaged Wednesday when Benjamin tore the ACL in his left knee.
“When you watch it on tape, the one I noticed on Kelvin, it looked like he got on his foot a little awkward,” Rivera said. “So he kind of shifted his weight and that’s where that happened.”
Rivera did not know when surgery would be scheduled for Benjamin, but that it should happen in the coming weeks.
▪ Receiver Ted Ginn Jr. had the biggest play of the day for the Panthers’ offense. In team drills he lined up and took a signal from Cam Newton and went deep. Ginn ran past Dolphins cornerback Jamar Taylor to catch the pass and run the remaining 15 yards in the end zone. Ginn shouted, “It’s over!” as he jogged back to the field.
▪ Panthers coach Ron Rivera walked into Thursday’s practice with former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino. The Hall of Famer is a special advisor for the Dolphins.
▪ Backup offensive tackle Martin Wallace left practice on a cart just as practice finished to be with his wife, who was going into labor. “I love her timing,” Rivera said. “She let us finish practice before she headed to the hospital.”
▪ Rivera was impressed with rookie right tackle Daryl Williams’ play, saying he believes Williams now knows he can play with top-line players.
▪ After a rather slow start to camp, receiver Jarrett Boykin turned it on in the final two practices. He still has a drop here and there, but quarterbacks have been taking aim at Boykin a lot in the past week.
▪ Cornerback Bene Benwikere got his first interception of team drills when he grabbed a Matt Moore pass that had been tipped by linebacker A.J. Klein. Benwikere said afterwards that he’s at 100 percent after battling hamstring injuries but that he has to get his stamina up.
▪ With Benjamin out and Devin Funchess sidelined with a hamstring pull, the Panthers’ starting receivers were Ginn, Jerricho Cotchery and Corey Brown.
▪ Backup tight end Ed Dickson got his most extensive work with the first-team offense and hauled in a touchdown pass from Newton during the two-minute drill.