Carolina Panthers

Equal opportunity and strategic speed: Observations from Panthers mini camp

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera shed light on a few storylines from Wednesday’s practice.
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera shed light on a few storylines from Wednesday’s practice.

Hours before the United States Women’s National Soccer Team broke the scoreboard Tuesday in a 13-0 win against Thailand in the World Cup, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera donned a T-shirt with the team’s logo on the front.

After a win like that, expect him to wear it again the next time the defending World Cup champions take the pitch.

It’s a level of support Carolina fans have come to expect from the ninth-year head coach, who has worked to increase the opportunities for women in sports — starting with his own team.

“Having had a wife who coached collegiately and professionally, and a daughter who played collegiately, you just hope everybody gets equal opportunity,” Rivera said following the Panther’s minicamp Wednesday. “We’re here with Jennifer King and she’s done a tremendous job for us, and hired a nutritionist who just happened to be a woman. We hired a player-wellness director and she just happened to be a woman.

“I just think that it’s time — we’re in a game that’s very popular and that’s watched by everybody, so it should be coached and managed by everybody.”

King joined the Panthers in 2018 as a coaching intern and worked as an assistant wide receivers coach for the Arizona Hotshots in the AAF before returning to Carolina this offseason. Rivera said King will remain with the team through training camp.

More observations from the Panthers’ practice:

Safety Eric Reid, and offensive linemen Ian Silberman and Brandon Greene all worked on the side to begin Wednesday’s session. Tight end Ian Thomas also did sidework during the two-hour practice, as did offensive linemen Matt Paradis, Daryl Williams and Trai Turner. Wide receiver Torrey Smith caught passes from Cam Newton toward the end of practice during team drills.

Speaking of Carolina’s most-prevalent offseason storyline, Newton continued to participate in position drills, throwing short-to-intermediate routes to running backs and receivers. He wasn’t a full participant — his throws longer than roughly 10 yards downfield were to stationary targets.

Cornerback Donte Jackson sparked the most impressive interception of minicamp so far, tracking down a deep pass from Kyle Allen to D.J. Moore and batting it to safety Colin Jones for the pick. His ability to take away the deep ball is no secret to the Panthers, but Rivera said the second-year player Jackson has worked this offseason to use his speed more “strategically” and not become over-reliant on his athletic ability.

“The thing we don’t want him to do is use that speed the wrong way,” Rivera said. “It’s not just about trying to bait a guy into throwing the ball, but making sure you’re in position so that when you do have to hit it, you can go get it. You see that a little bit more.

“He kind of timed (the tipped pass) but he was in a position where he was over the top and made the move underneath.”

Curtis Samuel caught a long touchdown pass from Allen, his second lengthy touchdown in as many days. Allen completed a pass to Moore immediately after for the two-point conversion.

First-round pick Brian Burns was borderline unblockable during team drills, whipping Carolina’s second-round pick Greg Little on multiple occasions while flashing the speed off the edge that’s made him so valuable throughout his career.

Rivera didn’t seem concerned with the seemingly one-sided battle — in fact, he’s seen in go both ways since rookie camp.

“I’ve seen a lot of good and a lot of bad on both sides because they get the best of each other,” he said. “They’re going to grow together, any time you take guys in the first and second round, you hope that they’re together for a while. They both have unique abilities and talents.

“Brian’s got arguably the best get-off coming out of the draft from what I understand, Greg Little’s one of the more athletic left tackles in this league, so it’s kind of interesting watching those guys compete and play against each other.”

Marcel Louis-Jacques covers the Carolina Panthers for the Charlotte Observer, keeping you on top of Panthers news both on the field and behind the scenes. He is a 2014 graduate of Arizona State University and grew up in Sacramento, California.