August 20, 2014

Cam Newton to play first half vs. Patriots

Panthers coach Ron Rivera plans to play Cam Newton and the rest of his starters for the first half of Friday's exhibition at New England.

Newton played five series in Sunday's win against Kansas City in his first action since March surgery to tighten the ligaments in his left ankle. Newton led the Panthers to touchdowns on his final two series before giving way to backup Derek Anderson late in the second quarter.

Rivera said the hope is to keep Newton in for the entire first half against the Patriots, as long as there are no setbacks with the ankle.

"They're still going to get some good reps, some quality reps," Rivera said Wednesday. "I hope we can get a two-minute drill at the end of the first half with that bunch, as well."

The Panthers could be without the starting right side of their offensive line at New England. Right tackle Nate Chandler is out with swelling in his knee, while guard Trai Turner has missed the past two days of practice with a groin injury.

Rivera said Turner would be re-evaluated Friday.

Veteran Garry Williams will replace Chandler. Chris Scott, who started eight games at right guard last year, would step in for Turner, the rookie from LSU.

Other injury notes:

--Rookie free safety Tre Boston returned to practice, but worked mostly on the side. Boston had missed all but one of the previous preseason practices after aggravating a sports hernia.

--Outside linebacker Chase Blackburn remains sidelined with a back injury, but Rivera said surgery has not been discussed.

--Starting cornerback Melvin White was held out after his back stiffened up Wednesday morning.

--Backup offensive lineman Andrew McDonald left the two-hour practice early with apparent heat-related symptoms.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on August 20, 2014 at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

August 19, 2014

Panthers trade Barner to Philly for 7th-round pick

The Panthers traded running back Kenjon Barner to the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday, reuniting the second-year back with Chip Kelly, Barner's coach at Oregon.

In exchange for Barner, Philadelphia sent the Panthers a conditional, seventh-round draft pick in 2015, the teams announced.

Barner, a sixth-round pick in 2013, failed to take advantage of increased reps at training camp this summer when Jonathan Stewart was sidelined with a hamstring injury and the team had limited DeAngelo Williams' reps.

Barner, who the Panthers hoped would win one of the kick return jobs, was eclipsed by running back Fozzy Whittaker as the No. 3 back after Whittaker's strong showing in Sunday night's exhibition win against Kansas City.

Whittaker rushed 13 times for a game-high 71 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs, while Barner gained 18 yards on seven carries. Whittaker ran hard and hit the holes with authority, which Barner had not done all summer.

In two exhibition games, Barner carried 15 times for 26 yards and failed to gain a yard on two punt returns. His only highlight was a 31-yard kickoff return against the Chiefs, but he hadn't done enough to justify a spot on the 53-man roster.

As a rookie, Barner played in eight games, rushing for 7 yards on six carries and catching two passes for 7 yards.

But Barner will get a fresh start with Kelly, who took over for Andy Reid in Philly before the 2013 season.

“Kenjon will hopefully bring some depth to both our running back and return positions. He’s obviously a guy I know really well from Oregon, where he had a very productive career," Kelly said in a release. "He has a lot of speed, explosiveness and had a knack for making some really big plays. But our plan with him right now is get him in Philadelphia as soon as we can and plug him in at running back and returner and let him compete.”

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on August 19, 2014 at 10:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

August 15, 2014

Steve Smith likes the Ravens for 'bully' mentality

By now, you all know the story of Steve Smith.

He's mercurial. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He's fought teammates. 

In an interview with CSN Baltimore, Smith recently detailed exactly why he likes being a member of the Baltimore Ravens and how he would go about bullying someone.


It's an entertaining clip, and it's vintage Smith. His spork deadpan would be a top-10 quote if he didn't already have a full list of top-10 quotes from his 13-year career that include this and this from last year.

In his first exhibition with the Ravens, Smith had one catch for 9 yards against the 49ers. He also spun the ball after the catch.

Despite being released by the Panthers, in part due to the type of behavior and mentality seen above, Smith remains a sports hero in Charlotte.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on August 15, 2014 at 01:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

August 14, 2014

Rivera: Newton will play at least first quarter vs. Chiefs

The setting might have changed for the Carolina Panthers, but questions about the health of quarterback Cam Newton's left ankle persist.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Newton would play at least the first quarter of Sunday night's nationally televised exhibition against Kansas City. Rivera has said previously Newton would not run the zone read against the Chiefs.

During Thursday's shorts-and-helmets practice, the Panthers' first in Charlotte since breaking camp at Wofford on Tuesday, Newton participated in every drill. He motioned for head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion early in the two-hour practice, although Newton later said the conversation was routine.

Newton, who had surgery to tighten the ligaments in his ankle in March, was held out of last week's exhibition opener against Buffalo.

Rivera said he doesn't want to play Newton too much against the Chiefs, fearful Newton might aggravate the injury while trying to do too much.

"We'll see," Rivera said when asked about Newton's playing time. "Right now the initial plan is to get him into the first quarter and then go from there."

Rivera said strong safety Roman Harper, who has missed two weeks with turf toe, would not play against the Chiefs. The status of defensive end Charles Johnson, who returned from a hamstring injury Thursday, is uncertain.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on August 14, 2014 at 04:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

August 12, 2014

5 Questions with Panthers GM Dave Gettleman

SPARTANBURG -- The Panthers' general manager spoke with reporters following the Tuesday's final training camp practice at Wofford.

Q: How do you think it went, other than the lack of heat?

A: It's crazy. The last two days have been the hottest. It's really kind of weird. The first week it was 68, 69. But it's going to be warm in Charlotte. We know it's going to be warm in Tampa. We'll be ready.

Q: Ron Rivera mentioned the secondary as his main area of concern, and thinks the offensive line is coming together. Is that how you view those two groups, as well?

A: The O-line, they've got to play together. I think you can see we're pretty close to settling on a group. Now it's a matter of them learning to play with each other, get comfortable, trust each other. On the back end on defense, we like the talent. We're happy with that. It's just a matter of people rising to the top, putting their foot in the ground and saying it's my job.

Q: Do you think your returner is on this roster right now?

A: We're going to try to figure that out. We've got three more games. We're going to give Philly Brown and a couple young kids a shot. We'll find out. Obviously, Ted (Ginn) is gone. So we've got to figure it out.

Q: A lot of teams have made roster changes during camp. You've been stable (since losing Tyler Gaffney on waivers). Do you feel like you've done a good job setting the roster?

A: It's a statement on the job we did coming in. We had two guys retire -- De'Quan Menzie and Shaq Rowell. We replaced them. ... Everybody's got a different philosophy. Watching it, it looks to me like what people are doing is they're using training camp to give multiple, back-end-of-the-roster guys tryouts and workouts, bringing them in for three, four days and then rolling them over.

Q: Your thoughts on the start Kelvin Benjamin's had?

A: I'm not unhappy. Kelvin came prepared. He came in very good physical shape. You can see his energy is there every day. He's done everything we've asked him to do, and he's getting better all the time. It's important to him. What's interesting is, people talk about he's an early-out junior. Kelvin's a little older. He's (23). He's a little more mature than a lot of early-out juniors. Now Trai Turner's on the other end. He's 21, and he plays like he's 25.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on August 12, 2014 at 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

August 11, 2014

Rivera wants more heat, intensity at practice

SPARTANBURG -- The heat turned up at Panthers' training camp Monday, and so did the intensity -- at least for the first half of practice.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera talked to his players for about five minutes after the 2-hour morning session wrapped up, reminding them to finish practice with the same effort level.

After mostly unseasonably cool temperatures for the first two weeks of camp, Monday was a hot, humid day in Spartanburg. Rivera said the conditions may have sapped his team's energy.

"I know it was tough. I know it started getting hot and muggy. You could feel the humidity," Rivera said. "But you've got to fight it because that's probably what we're going to face when we go to Tampa Bay."

Right tackle Nate Chandler returned and had a good practice after missing Sunday's practice with a knee injury.

During team drills at the end of practice, veteran Garry Williams replaced Byron Bell at left tackle. Rivera didn't know why the move was made, but said Bell had a minor knee issue flare up earlier at practice.

Two members of the defensive end rotation were out -- rookie Kony Ealy (left foot) and Mario Addison (stomach bug). Backup OL Derek Dennis also sat out with flulike symptoms.

Backup RB Darrin Reaves left early with a knee injury.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on August 11, 2014 at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

August 10, 2014

Carolina Panthers change training camp practice times

The Carolina Panthers have announced changes in practice times for the final three days of training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.

The revised schedule is as follows:

Sunday, Aug. 10: 3:15-5:20 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 11: 9:25-11:20 a.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 12: 9:25-11:20 a.m.



(Photo: David T. Foster III, The Charlotte Observer)

Posted by Charlotte Observer on August 10, 2014 at 12:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 07, 2014

Still no decision for Newton's play vs. Bills

SPARTANBURG The Panthers are still mum on if Cam Newton will play in Friday’s exhibition against Buffalo, but the quarterback is approaching it as if he will play.

Newton, still getting treatment for offseason ankle surgery, would not play more than two series if he does play against the Bills. Rivera has said he would do little more than handing the ball off.

"Do I want to play? I do," Newton said Thursday. "I think this is an opportunity for me to play, but at the end of the day I’m sticking to the program."

Newton did individual wide receiver drills Thursday and worked with quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey off to the side. Midway through practice he rode the cart to the training room to get treatment with head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion.

“R.V. was going to take him up, work on that ankle and see where that ankle exactly is,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “It’s a chance for R.V. to get his hands on (him) and really see where Cam is in terms of his progress.

“Again, it’s part of the process we’re going through in terms of what he’s going to do. Obviously it’s going to be limited whatever it is. The thing we all have to understand is we’re going through this process that we’ve mapped out and talked about.”

The “part of the process” has been a common refrain for Rivera recently as he attempts to quell any fears of Newton not being 100 percent by the regular season. Wednesday Newton was as limited as he had been all camp, and Thursday he participated even less.

Without specifically naming players, Rivera said he doesn’t want to be like other teams in the past that have trotted out their quarterbacks when they weren’t fully healthy.

“We want to learn from those things and make sure we are set and ready to go with our quarterback,” Rivera said.

“I’m just saying we want to make sure when we get our guy on the field, he’s ready to roll.”

Rivera has said he has worried Newton will want to do too much on the field during a game. At practice he's been limited with no designed runs or scrambles, but Newton could improvise in a game.

"I’m going to try to win," Newton said. "We play this game for one reason and one reason only. We practice for one reason and one reason only: to win the day," Newton said. "If I have an opportunity to go out there and the opportunity presents itself, of course I’m going to do anything to put my team in a position to win." 

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on August 7, 2014 at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

August 05, 2014

Rivera: No plan yet for Newton's play, if any, against Bills

Cam Newton’s participation in Friday night’s exhibition against the Bills is still undetermined, and Carolina’s starting quarterback may not play at all.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he, the doctors, the training staff and Newton have not sat down to make a plan for Newton’s playing time on Friday night. That decision won’t come until after Thursday morning’s practice.

On Tuesday after afternoon practice, Rivera was noncommittal on if he expected Newton to play.

“I’m not going to say yes and all of a sudden he’s not going to. And I’m not going to say no and all of a sudden he’s going to,” Rivera said. “I’ve been told, in talking with the trainers, that we can’t make a decision right now.”

Newton had his left ankle surgically repaired in March. He still experiences pain in the ankle, and the Panthers have not called any designed runs for Newton all of camp.

Newton has typically played no more than two series in the first exhibition, and if he plays against Buffalo, Newton will do no more than that.

“And I imagine it’d involve a lot of handing the ball off,” Rivera said.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on August 5, 2014 at 05:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Yardwork leads to injured back for Josh Thomas

SPARTANBURG -- Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Thomas may think twice before jumping into his next do-it-yourself project.

Thomas began training camp on the non-football injury list with back spasms that were a result of the yardwork he did at his new Charlotte-area home this summer.

Thomas said the 12-hour days he spent landscaping his half-acre backyard in Mint Hill gave his spasms and put him on the sideline for the first several days of training camp.

"It started out as I was trying to save myself some money," Thomas said Tuesday. "I thought, 'You know what, I'll go ahead and do it myself and get ready for the heat in Spartanburg.'"

Thomas, a second-team corner who started six games last season, said he bought two shovels and a pick and started in on the red clay.

"One thing led to another and I ended up doing my whole yard, all the planting. I dug up all the clay, removing rocks from the clay, hauling it over the hill," he said. "I overworked."

But the story has a happy ending: Thomas is healthy again and his wife is happy.

"My wife said she wanted to see a lot of color in the backyard," Thomas said. "She has a lot of color."

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on August 5, 2014 at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)