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July 31, 2014

Carolina Panthers may shift Friday practice due to rain

Due to the potential for inclement weather Friday in Spartanburg, the Carolina Panthers will announce practice time on Friday morning.

The practice is set to begin at 9:25 a.m., but may be pushed to later in the day.



Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, right, signs autographs for fans
standing in Thursday's rain at training camp in Spartanburg, S.C.
(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Posted by Charlotte Observer on July 31, 2014 at 09:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 29, 2014

Still no timeline for Benjamin's return, but he's staying involved

There’s still no definitive timeline for Kelvin Benjamin’s return to practice, but Tuesday he was back in Spartanburg working on the side and staying involved in the offense.

Benjamin, who suffered a bone bruise to his left knee in Sunday’s practice, had a compression sleeve on his left leg. He rode the exercise bike early in practice, and later he could be found standing beside quarterback Cam Newton, quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey and/or behind the line of scrimmage watching during installation periods.

“What we're going to do is continue what he did today,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “He'll do stuff on the bike. He'll do a lot of non weight-bearing things on the knee. We'll do those types of things with him.”

The Panthers will travel back to Charlotte Tuesday night and will return to Wofford’s campus on Wednesday night. Rivera said the team will re-evaluate Benjamin on Wednesday morning in Charlotte.

Rivera believed the injury came from Benjamin bumping knees with cornerback Charles Godfrey on a route, but Benjamin clarified the injury came from his own body weight after he went to the ground on a catch in Sunday's practice.


"I made the catch and all my body weight just came down on my knee," Benjamin said. "So my kneecap hit the back of the bone."

He continued to practice but felt soreness in the knee later. He was sent to Charlotte for an MRI on Monday.

Rivera has been hesitant to put a timetable on Benjamin’s return to the field. He expects it to be measured in days rather than weeks, but the swelling in Benjamin’s knee must go down before the team begins to work him back in, and that may not be for another few days.

Benjamin said he's listening to what the trainers tell him. He expects to play in preseason games.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on July 29, 2014 at 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

July 28, 2014

Former Panthers lineman Travelle Wharton to retire

Former Carolina Panthers offensive linemen Travelle Wharton and Jordan Gross would head in to Bank of America Stadium most mornings during the season.

The two are heading out together, too.

Wharton, 33, will announce his retirement Tuesday during a news conference at Wofford, ending his career where it began 10 years ago after the Panthers drafted the former South Carolina standout in the third round of the 2004 draft.

Wharton is expected to join Gross, his longtime teammate and neighbor, as a co-host on Gross' weekly TV show on the Panthers' newly launched channel on Time Warner Cable.

Gross retired after 11 seasons in February and will serve as the sideline reporter during the Panthers' radio broadcasts.

Wharton did not want to comment ahead of Tuesday's announcement.

Wharton was a starter for the Panthers until 2012 when he signed with Cincinnati. He blew out his knee in the first preseason game that year and never played a regular-season game with the Bengals.

He returned to Carolina last year after the Panthers had a spate of injuries at guard, and started 12 games at left guard.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on July 28, 2014 at 09:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

July 27, 2014

Greg Hardy: I hate I've been a distraction to the team

SPARTANBURG In his first public comments since he was convicted of assaulting and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy repeatedly declined to comment about the domestic violence case, but said he regrets being a distraction to the team.

Hardy would not say whether he's apologized to his teammates, calling it a team matter he wants to keep internal.

"I hate that I have distracted my team, but other than that I can't really answer any questions," Hardy said Sunday at Wofford, site of the Panthers' training camp.

Before Hardy addressed the media Sunday, a Panthers spokesman said Hardy would not discuss anything related to the case.

Six times when asked questions related to his guilty verdict, Hardy said he "can't answer that question."

A Mecklenburg County district judge this month found Hardy guilty on the two misdemeanor charges, stemming from the early morning altercation with Nicole Holder at Hardy's uptown condo on May 13.

He appealed the decision and has a jury trial pending, almost certainly after the season.

The Panthers have indicated they plan to allow the league to handle Hardy's potential discipline, which general manager Dave Gettleman believes would happen after the legal process is complete.

Hardy, who signed a $13.1 million franchise tag two months before his May arrest, said he wants to stay with the Panthers long-term. He wouldn't answer a question about whether he believes the events of the offseason have hurt his chances to remain with the organization after this season.

Hardy, the Panthers' sixth-round draft pick in 2010, tied a team record with 15 sacks last season and went to his first Pro Bowl.

"I love this place. This is a great atmosphere," Hardy said. "I love the ownership, love my teammates. I've had a great five years here.

--Joseph Person and Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on July 27, 2014 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

July 25, 2014

A healthy Silatolu will help solidify Panthers' interior line

The knee-jerk reactions on Twitter to the Panthers' health updates Thursday were predictable and understandable, with fans bemoaning the latest injuries to running back Jonathan Stewart and second-year guard Edmund Kugbila (Jeff Otah 2.0).

But sometimes no news is good news, and that was the case with a name Panthers GM Dave Gettleman didn't mention when I asked him about the injured list:

Amini Silatolu.

Silatolu, the second-round pick from 2012, was part of a Panthers' guard rotation that seemed cursed last season.

Silatolu, Garry Williams, Jeff Byers, Chris Scott and Kugbila all missed significant time last season with injuries.

The Panthers were able to patch things together at guard, thanks to their signing of veteran Travelle Wharton and the steady play of the versatile Nate Chandler.

But the Panthers are a better team with a healthy Silatolu, who was figuring things out at the end of his rookie season before injuring his wrist in Week 15. Silatolu then missed the final 12 games last season after tearing his ACL in a Week 4 loss at Arizona.

As recently as five weeks ago, Silatolu said he still wasn't quite 100 percent. But after spending the summer in Charlotte working out and finishing up his rehab, Silatolu believes he is fully healed.

"It's been a long offseason with rehab, but I'm ready to go," he said Thursday. "I feel like it's 100 percent."

Silatolu slides back into the starting lineup at left guard, leaving Scott and rookie Trai Turner to battle it out at right guard. Williams, who's also healthy again following his own knee surgery, will work at guard and tackle.

And Wharton, who lives in Fort Mill and still has not announced his retirement, presumably would be available in a pinch.

But Silatolu hopes the Panthers' guards are due for some good karma following last season's parade to the training room.

"It was weird, but we had Nate stepping up," he said.

"We're all going to be competing," Silatolu added, "and I think we have a good set of guys."

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on July 25, 2014 at 11:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

July 21, 2014

Jameis Winston: Benjamin blessed to play with Newton

399-F89NJ.St.55GREENSBORO Even though Kelvin Benjamin has a new quarterback, he still chats plenty with his old quarterback.

At ACC Football Kickoff this weekend, Florida State quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston said he and Benjamin still keep in contact regularly.

And each time they talk, Winston tells him the same thing.

“I tell K.B. every time I talk to him it’s a blessing he got the opportunity to play with Cam (Newton),” Winston said Sunday. “As I was coming up I always loved Cam’s game. I feel like we have some similar qualities—obviously he’s better. But K.B. going from me to Cam, that’s amazing.

“I think he’s really going to help Cam out and I know Cam’s always going to have an influence on his players. They’re going to have probably one of the most dynamic combinations in the NFL.”

Benjamin hauled in 54 passes for 1,011 yards and an ACC-high 15 touchdowns in 2013, including the game-winning touchdown in the national title game against Auburn.

The Panthers selected the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Benjamin with the 28th overall pick in the draft with hopes that his big-play abilities in the red zone will transfer from college to the NFL.

And while his college quarterback will closely watch Benjamin in the NFL, Winston isn’t exactly rooting for the entire Panthers team.

“I was blessed to have an opportunity to play with Kelvin,” Winston said. “And no, I'm still not a Panthers fan, but I am a Cam Newton and K.B. fan. I am an Eagles fan, to answer that.”

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on July 21, 2014 at 11:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

"Riverboat" Ron Rivera joins Twitter

Just as Ron Rivera was slow to embrace his "Riverboat Ron" nickname, it took the Carolina Panthers' coach some time to come around to Twitter.

But Rivera jumped into the Twitter world over the weekend as @RiverboatRonHC.

We're told the account is Rivera's, and should be verified soon.

Rivera joins his wife, Stephanie (@CoachRiv2), who is active on Twitter. Stephanie Rivera tweeted pictures from the couple's European vacation this month.

It will be interesting to see how often Rivera uses his Twitter account, and what the tone of his posts are. Sean Payton and Pete Carroll are among the NFL coaches who tweet regularly.

Rivera's first two tweets were links to ESPN's piece on Cam Newton's day with Make-A-Wish child George Gring during OTAs.

Rivera's Riverboat is filling up fast on Twitter. He went from 70 followers to more than 2,300 in about an hour Monday morning.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on July 21, 2014 at 11:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

July 16, 2014

Panthers partner with Time Warner on local programming deal

The Panthers are pumping up their local TV presence, partnering with Time Warner Cable SportsChannel on a multi-year programming agreement, the team announced Wednesday.

Beginning next week with the premiere of "Panthers Camp Confidential," the Panthers will produce more than 250 hours of annual programming that will be broadcast throughout the Carolinas on TWC SportsChannel.

TWC SportsChannel becomes the Panthers' exclusive local cable home, and will air each of the team's preseason games. WCCB in Charlotte also will simulcast the preseason games.

TWC SportsChannel is only available to Time Warner subscribers.

The Panthers said the agreement is one of the largest ever developed by an NFL team with a regional channel. Financial terms were not disclosed.

In addition to the preseason games, TWC SportsChannel will televise a live post-game show and nightly Panthers programs, including one hosted by longtime offensive lineman Jordan Gross.

Gross, who retired in February, also will serve as the sideline reporter on the team's radio broadcasts.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on July 16, 2014 at 01:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

July 03, 2014

Luke Kuechly named No. 15 on NFL's Top 100 list

Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly comes in at No. 15 on NFL.com's top 100 players list this year, moving up from No. 79 last year.

Posted by Observer staff on July 3, 2014 at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)