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Talking about practice: Day 6

Posted Aug 2, 2012

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Panthers defense turned in a strong performance during team periods at Thursday night's training camp practice at Wofford College.

Quarterback Cam Newton has a theory why.

Game officials participated in the practice, and Newton wanted them to increase their level of participation.

When quarterback Derek Anderson tried to hit rookie wide receiver Joe Adams in the front corner of the end zone during a seven-on-seven drill but didn't connect, Newton good-naturedly needled the nearest official for a flag.

Newton's pleas fell on deaf ears, but he got the last laugh when Anderson hooked up with Adams in the middle of the end zone on the next snap.

"We don't need your flag," Newton said with a smile.

Overall, the defense had more reasons to smile.

ATTENDANCE REPORT

--Left tackle Jordan Gross was given the night off and did not practice. Bruce Campbell filled in at the left tackle spot during team drills.

--Additionally, linebacker Thomas Davis, cornerbacks Josh Norman and Brandon Hogan, and wide receivers Rico Wallace, Lamont Bryant and Hubert Anyiam all missed practice – all for at least the second consecutive day.

--Newly signed cornerback Nate Ness participated in defensive back drills but was not in pads because of a Collective Bargaining Agreement rule that stipulates players practice their first two days without pads. He'll be eligible to compete in pads at Fan Fest on Saturday.


INSTANT REPLAYS

Three defensive backs registered interceptions, while a fourth might have made more plays than anybody.

Cornerback Josh Thomas didn't pick off a pass but knocked away several balls from would-be receivers. Along the same lines, rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly continued to blanket tight ends when called upon, knocking down a pass intended for Gary Barnidge.

--Safeties Charles Godfrey and D.J. Campbell and cornerback Darius Butler came up with interceptions during team drills. Butler – like Thomas singled out for good play the day before by head coach Ron Rivera – also broke up a couple more passes.

--Wide receiver Steve Smith made the offensive play of the night – but it didn't count. Sixty-five yards away from the end zone in the early going of a two-minute drill, Smith made an outstanding catch deep in the red zone, but the coaches brought it back in part because Newton held the ball so long before throwing that he could well have been sacked if the defense was allowed to make contact.

--Godfrey eventually ended that drive with an interception, then the defense held in another two-minute situation with Anderson at quarterback. The offense later didn't score on a trio of red zone drills, though Newton did connect for a scoring pass to Seyi Ajirotutu later in seven-on-seven work near the goal line.

--After the two-minute drills, kicker Justin Medlock attempted six field goals in rapid fire fashion. He made five, including a 52-yarder that would have been good from 62 followed by a 53-yarder that squeezed in.


SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

--Rivera took advantage of an opportunity late in the two-minute drill to drill home a teaching point.

With three seconds on the clock and the offense 18 yards from the end zone, defensive end Frank Alexander jumped offside (perhaps at Rivera's request), and Campbell popped up as offensive linemen typically are taught to draw a flag.

Rivera then told the offense, however, that wasn't the smartest play in that specific situation.

"With three seconds left, don't jump," he yelled. "We get a free play."

Rivera also made sure the defense understood the possible consequences: if they jump offside in that situation, an alert offense could get a "free play" to try to score as well as an untimed down if they don't score – a crucial two-for-one.

--Newton didn't limit his joking with personnel to the men in stripes. When he uncorked a high pass that ticked off the outstretched arms of a ballboy, Newton bellowed, "Hey, you've got to be able to make plays out here."

When the ballboy later bobbled a ball and muttered that it just wasn't his day, Panthers team president Danny Morrison offered him a piece of advice on the sideline. Morrison was a student-athlete at Wofford in the 1970s, albeit on the basketball court rather than the football field.


NEXT UP: Friday's practice has been moved to Gibbs Stadium and will kick off at 3:30 p.m. After practice, the Panthers will head to Charlotte for Fan Fest scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m. at Bank of America Stadium and will return to the Wofford fields Monday at 6 p.m.