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Mason's Minutes: The dance continues

Posted Aug 3, 2009

Duel
Jordan Gross and Julius Peppers dueled Monday night, just like previous years. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)


TwitterSPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Torvill and Dean. Jordan Gross and Julius Peppers. Granted, the daily dancing in which Gross and Peppers engage doesn't have the artistry of the first pair or the fluidity of the second. But during Carolina's recent training camps, you can't mention one without the other.

So when Peppers returned to the field for the first time since missing offseason practices while his contract was resolved, a familiar and symbiotic coupling was once again in play. For most of the past six summers, the two have pushed each other, paired repeatedly in one-on-one line drills and then forced to square off as the Panthers' first-teamers duel.

As Peppers moved to right end last year, Gross moved to left tackle -- almost as though their shifts were connected. They weren't, but the final result of their 2008 performances was, as both went to the Pro Bowl.

The skills that Gross honed over his first six NFL seasons -- the ones that made him one of the league's finest left tackles -- might not have blossomed without the challenge of facing Peppers daily, exchanging move for countermove in a brutally elegant ballet.

"It's never easy with him," Gross said. "He's got the great speed and quickness, and I always say that he's the best athlete you'll see in the league. That'll be the story until he retires."

And as Gross discovered Monday, he's the same old Peppers. The two grappled to stalemates in much of their one-on-one work, but Peppers managed to break around Gross on one pass play, sweeping wide and pressuring on quarterback Jake Delhomme during the morning practice.

Peppers

Julius Peppers has Jake Delhomme in his sights. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)


"There's definitely no dropoff for him for not being around this offseason," Gross said.

And if the two dance partners can keep matching each other, they might help the Panthers end in another bowl this winter.

SPLIT SECONDS:

... Linebacker Jon Beason was sidelined with a hamstring tweak, which he aggravated earlier in the day on the first play of the initial team period Monday morning. Dan Connor worked at middle linebacker in his place ...

... With Maake Kemoeatu out with a torn Achilles tendon, Nick Hayden saw some work with the first team Monday night. Rookie Marlon Favorite worked in that slot during the morning practice ...

... Wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad and running back Jonathan Stewart were given the evening to rest, but both were on the sidelines and working out with strength and conditioning coach Jerry Simmons, where they were joined by Beason ...

... With Muhammad out, Dwayne Jarrett saw some first-unit work. He made some catches, but his finest play might have been a block to spring DeAngelo Williams free up the left side of the field ...

... The defense was particularly aggressive Monday night, with D.J. Clark outleaping Steve Smith for an interception up the left sideline among the takeaways. Captain Munnerlyn also picked off a pass, while Thomas Davis forced a fumble ...

Marshall

D.J. Clark had position -- but just barely -- on Steve Smith. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)

... After working on punts in the morning session, the special-teams focus was on kickoff returns, with Mike Goodson, Ryne Robinson and Larry Beavers taking turns fielding footballs.


ROARS* OF THE NIGHT:

(* You might call them "tweets." I don't.)

6:35 P.M. EDT: Crowd gathering on the hillside. Shade covering portions of the field & a breeze blowing. In other words ... quite pleasant out here tonight.

6:53 P.M. EDT: LBs and now DBs working on strip the ball drills ... defensive groups are rotating among stations, all focused on pursuit & takeaways.

7:37 P.M. EDT: Into a team period ... Nice downfield block by Dwayne Jarrett to spring DeAngelo Williams free ... Next play, a FF by Thomas Davis.

8:06 P.M. EDT: 7-on-7 period sees another takeaway ... Captain Munnerlyn with the leaping INT ... two plays later, Mortty Ivy's hit forces an incompletion.

Munnerlyn

Above, Munnerlyn's interception. Below, Ivy's hit on Andrew Davie. (PHOTOS: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)
Ivy

8:13 P.M. EDT: Into another team period ... Loud round of applause for #MikeGoodson, who burst through the left side of the line.

Goodson

Mike Goodson's speed caught the eye of fans on hand -- as well as the author's itchy Twitter fingers. (PHOTO: MATTHEW BRINKLEY)


For all the Twitter posts from Monday night, and the latest Panthers updates, follow along at Twitter.com/cpanthers.

SNAPSHOTS:

Browns
Battle of the Browns -- Patrick (in white) grapples with Everette. Both are rookies, and both came from Florida schools -- Central Florida (Patrick) and Florida State (Everette).

Incomplete
Nate Salley's timely hit on Dante Rosario forced an incompletion.

Marshall
Beavers dives low after a catch. (PHOTO: MATTHEW BRINKLEY)

Moore
Quarterback Matt Moore lets one fly.

Lee
Running back Jamall Lee managed to retrieve this fumble, the result of a backfield collision.

Marshall
Justin Geisinger goes one-on-one with Lorenzo Williams. (PHOTO: MATTHEW BRINKLEY)

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