SPARTANBURG, 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
"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.
... Wide receiver
... The defense was particularly aggressive Monday night, with
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,
For all the Twitter posts from Monday night, and the latest Panthers updates, follow along at Twitter.com/cpanthers.
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).
Beavers dives low after a catch. (PHOTO: MATTHEW BRINKLEY)