CHARLOTTE – Ah, Fan Fest. The annual training camp practice where the players play to the Bank of America Stadium crowd; where a certain charismatic quarterback orchestrates the wave; where it rains at some point and autographs and fireworks cap the night.
And this year, Cam Newton put on quite a show with his arm for the sold-out crowd (all 62,500 tickets distributed).
“He really enjoys the atmosphere and he feeds off (the fans’) energy,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “It’s really cool to see him have the kind of day he had today.”
Hardly any of Newton’s passes hit the turf. Short, intermediate, deep – he was on the money.
And it doesn’t hurt when wide receiver Curtis Samuel is running wide open deep down the middle of the field. But let’s be honest – it never gets old seeing Newton air it out and hit his target in stride, coverage breakdown or not.
Speaking of Samuel, arguably the best part of practice was when Newton called for the DJ to give his wideout something to dance to. Samuel delivered in a big way. See for yourself.
--Linebacker Luke Kuechly and cornerback Donte Jackson were limited participants Friday. Both were held out of team drills. “No issue,” Rivera said when asked about Kuechly, “just an abundance of being careful.”
--Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and guard Trai Turner had vet days and watched practice from the sideline. With Turner out, rookie guard Dennis Daley was in with the starters at right guard. Cornerback Kevon Seymour was absent after coming off the field with a hamstring back in Spartanburg. “We just want to be smart about it,” Rivera said.
--Dave Tepper was a man of the people, per usual. The Panthers owner milled around the concourse and engaged fans before practice got underway. Then he did an interview with PantherVision, emphatically telling the sell-out crowd that Carolina has “the best damn fans in the NFL.”
--Safety Tre Boston was sporting number 33 when he emerged from the tunnel. It’s the number he wore during his first stint with the Panthers and with the Chargers and Cardinals. That meant rookie running back Elijah Holyfield made the switch to number 21. Got to show some respect to the vet.
Once practice began, Boston was working with the second-team defense at free safety. He later shadowed safety Ross Cockrell during install to further acclimate himself. Overall, it was a nice welcome back practice for Boston.
“It means a lot to see all the love and see that the fans remember what I’ve done here,” Boston said. “It’s a blessing. I just plan on bringing Thieves Ave back to where it’s supposed to be.”
--Newton and the first-team offense capped a move-the-ball drill in style, with Newton firing a touchdown strike over the middle to wideout DJ Moore, who took a bow after getting to his feet. Newton then took the ball and raced to the first row for a Sunday, er, Friday giveaway.
--Some highlights from the goal line period: Safety Eric Reid stuffed running back Cameron Artis-Payne, fullback Alex Armah powered his through defenders and Holyfield had a really nice run, bouncing outside and winning a footrace to the end zone.
View photos from Fan Fest practice at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.