SPARTANBURG – A week into training camp and a day before Fan Fest in Charlotte, the Panthers had an extensive 'did not practice' list on Thursday. Among the names:
- Quarterback Cam Newton
- Running back Christian McCaffrey
- Tight end Greg Olsen
- Center Matt Paradis
- Offensive lineman Daryl Williams
- Defensive tackle Kawann Short
- Linebacker Luke Kuechly
- Defensive back Rashaan Gaulden
McCaffrey, Olsen and Short were just vet days off. According to head coach Ron Rivera, so was Kuechly, who left Wednesday's practice early after getting caught in a "pileup" during a 9-on-7 drill. Newton, Paradis and Williams took scheduled maintenance days. Gaulden was held out with a sore lower back.
The second-year safety spent most of the late stages of practice chatting with Tre Boston, who arrived a little over midway through practice after re-signing in Carolina. It's unclear how long – if at all – it'll take for Boston to start running with the first-team defense. But it's clear he's got a chance to slide right back in there after totaling eight interceptions and 17 pass breakups while splitting the past two seasons with the Cardinals and Chargers.
"He's been one of the more consistent safeties in the league making plays," Rivera said. "And if the pass rush does develop like we hope, we have a guy that can go out and make a play. He is a ballhawk. He still has tremendous hands. His anticipation is even better – almost to the point where you almost wonder if he's gambling. But at the same time, he has made a lot of plays."
Gaulden will continue to get a look at free safety, but his best path to playing time may now be when the Panthers go to their big nickel package – which is a decent amount.
"We want to get him going on that because that's a position that's going to play anywhere between 25-, 35-, 40-percent of the snaps of the game," Rivera said. "So he's got a role, definitely."
–With Newton sitting out, Kyle Allen took quarterback reps with the first-team offense. It's wild what a difference a year has made with him. During last year's camp, Allen looked unsure and barely saw the field. This time around he's clearly more confident, and he's been impressively sharp.
–The backup job is still a long way from being decided. Third-round pick Will Grier has also flashed, and it must have been neat for his dad – and former coach – to see his son practice with the team they used to watch play at Bank of America Stadium:
–Grier's best throw of the day came in 1-on-1's when he launched a perfect deep ball to wideout DeAndrew White, who ran past cornerback Kevon Seymour. After the play, secondary coach Perry Fewell told Seymour: "Win some; lose some." But there may be a reason Seymour was a step behind on the play. He walked away with a slight limp and spent the rest of practice watching with iced wrapped around his upper leg.
–Third-year wide receiver Curtis Samuel has been the roster's top standout through the first week of camp, so it's notable he actually dropped a pass. That happened during 1-on-1s when he slid inside cornerback James Bradberry. Still, coaches told Samuel he ran "a great route."
–Samuel's good buddy DJ Moore made multiple toe-tapping catches in team drills. The prettiest came when he adjusted to come back for a ball from Allen while holding off Donte Jackson.
–One of the defense's best plays of the day happened after a catch in the middle of the field by wideout Andre Levrone. Cornerback Josh Thornton then popped the ball out, eliciting a celebration from outside linebacker Bruce Irvin and a reminder from offensive coordinator Norv Turner that "they're going to do that in a game."
–With McCaffrey taking what may have been the first vet day of his three-year career, fifth-round running back Jordan Scarlett saw the bulk of first-team reps. It's going to be really interesting watching him in the preseason. Elijah Holyfield, too. Add in Cameron Artis-Payne, and the race for the backup running job is closer than it's been in quite some time.
–A film crew from ProSieben, the NFL's broadcast partner in Germany, attended practice and conducted a series of off-the-wall interviews afterward with McCaffrey, defensive end Mario Addison and linebacker Shaq Thompson.
–These two …