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Panthers Training Camp Observations: Day 1

Posted Jul 26, 2017

Everything you need to know from the first practice of training camp at Gibbs Stadium.

Play of the day

Undrafted rookie wide receiver Austin Duke was a playmaker throughout OTAs, and he picked up where he left off at training camp. Duke sprinted past cornerback Teddy Williams and laid out for a deep ball from quarterback Joe Webb down the sideline. A giddy Cam Newton ran over to celebrate the long reception.

Offensive MVP: WR Austin Duke

In addition to Duke’s highlight-reel catch, he made a number of receptions on intermediate routes. He’s off to a great start in his fight for a spot on this team.

Defensive MVP: CB James Bradberry

The second-year cornerback is still sporting a small cast as a result of the injury he suffered in the spring, but it hasn’t slowed him down. Bradberry picked off Newton’s short pass for wide receiver Russell Shepard, and later, he broke up Derek Anderson’s underthrown deep ball to Curtis Samuel, which safety Mike Adams reeled in.

Injury updates

Head coach Ron Rivera said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn strained his hamstring in the days leading up to training camp. Munnerlyn did not practice Wednesday but is expected back on the field soon.

Wide receiver Devin Funchess was forced to leave practice early after suffering cramps. Defensive tackle Toby Johnson exited early on with a leg injury.

“His cramps started in the midsection and worked its way down the hamstring and hopefully out of the bottom of his feet,” Rivera said of Funchess. “They took him in probably to get an IV.”

Additional practice notes

  • Newton showed everyone that he’s still got plenty of arm strength during the individual period. He fired strikes with plenty of zip to his receivers running slant patterns. It wasn’t full strength mind you, but it’s hard to tell when Newton is the one throwing the ball.

  • Newton’s best throw came down the middle to Shepard. It was perfectly lofted over the defense and hit Shepard in stride for a long gain.

  • Next to Newton, rookie running back Christian McCaffrey drew the loudest cheers. Every time he touched the ball, the crowd at Gibbs Stadium went wild. He had several nice runs where he showed off his tremendous burst.

  • Guard Andrew Norwell was his usual intense self right from the get-to. The fourth-year guard tossed fellow lineman Tyrus Thompson to the ground during the first set of position drills. That raised a few eyebrows along the sideline.

  • Defensive end Julius Peppers and defensive line coach Eric Washington were engaged in a lengthy conversation after an early team period. The two were going over technique and assignments against the looks they were seeing. Pretty cool to see a 16-year veteran still with that desire to be coached on the finer points.

  • Tight end Greg Olsen wasn’t involved much in the passing game, but the fans in attendance roared when he caught a pass underneath in the closing stages of practice.

  • Kicker competition update: Veteran Graham Gano and rookie Harrison Butker connected on a series of short and intermediate kicks. Both were wide right (Butker hit the upright) from around 53 yards out. Gano closed out the kicking session by splitting the uprights on a 55-yarder.