SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Panthers first practice in pads is complete and tomorrow morning they’ll likely be reminded of it.
“We were talking about it this morning,” rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly said. “Tomorrow you’re going to wake up and you’re going to feel stuff in your neck and your shoulders that you haven’t felt for a while.”
Pads always bring the practice intensity up a notch, allowing the players to further test themselves physically.
“You can lift all the weights you want, run all you want and do all the strength and conditioning work all summer,” offensive tackle Jordan Gross said, “but until you start hitting people live, you don’t know what kind of shape you’re in or how you feel.”
Head coach Ron Rivera said earlier in the day that defensive tackle Ron Edwards would not participate in Monday’s practice as a precaution, but there was a change in plans and Edwards suited up as a full participant.
Wide receiver Steve Smith did not practice and linebacker Thomas Davis was also held out. Wide receivers Rico Wallace, Hubert Anyiam and Lamont Bryant also did not participate.
Rookie cornerback Josh Norman suffered a hamstring injury during practice, although Rivera said it doesn’t appear to be too serious.
“He got tangled up and went down,” Rivera said. “(The trainers) felt pretty optimistic and we’ll see where he is tomorrow morning.”
--Fullback Mike Tolbert flashed his receiving ability early in team drills. Quarterback Derek Anderson faked a handoff to Tolbert and later zipped the ball to him for a big gain up the middle.
--Defensive tackle Andre Neblett garnered some applause from his defensive teammates after he collapsed the pocket and tagged quarterback Cam Newton for a sack.
--Newton targeted Greg Olsen often and fired a bullet to the tight end on a deep crossing pattern. Newton clapped his hands after one of his best throws of the evening.
--Wide receiver Jared Green got way beyond the secondary, making it easy for Newton to launch a deep ball to him for the score.
--The biggest hit of the session came courtesy of offensive lineman Jeff Byers, much to the delight of his fellow O-linemen. The offense set up a screen to Jonathan Stewart and Byers paved the way, thumping linebacker Jason Williams in the open field.
--Screens were effective for the offense throughout the practice and Stewart took one down the right side and ra untouched for the score. Offensive guard Geoff Hangartner rumbled 50 yards down field to supply an escort to the end zone.
--The defense recorded two interceptions on the night, the first coming as a result of Chris Gamble’s effort. The cornerback stepped in front of a pass from Newton intended for Olsen and the ball bounced off his chest. Linebacker Jon Beason was there to snatch the ball out of the air for the takeaway.
--Cornerback Brandon Hogan grabbed the second interception. Hogan read quarterback Jimmy Clausen’s eyes and grabbed the pass intended for wideout Michael Avila down the right sideline.
--Kicker Olindo Mare connected on all of eight of his field goal attempts.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
--Rivera and Newton took some time to sign autographs after they exited the locker room for practice. Newton eventually skipped over to the field saying, “Got to go to work. Go to go to work.”
--Smith and Davis may not have suited up, but the two veterans were active during practice. Smith kept a close eye on passing drills and worked on some stretching techniques with wideout Brandon LaFell. Davis supplied passes for the linebackers during their interception drill.
--Davis and Rivera played some catch prior to the start of practice. Linebacker James Anderson stepped in and caught some balls as well.
--Safety Charles Godfrey took advantage of the first practice in pads. He stuck his nose in on several collisions and supplied a couple big pops.
--Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson chatted with Rivera and Smith while he observed practice.
--The offense and defense got together to work on blitzing and blitz pick-up. Linebackers and defensive backs alternated blitzing, while running backs and tight ends took turns in one-on-one pass protection.
--The defensive line worked through a pass-rushing drill where they slowed down their mechanics, punching out with one hand, and ripping through the block with the other.
NEXT UP: The Panthers will practice Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. It's T-shirt Tuesday, so players will toss T-shirts into the crowd after practice in the autograph zone.