Skip to main content
Carolina Panthers

2023 Training Camp Observations: Day 1

Bryce Young

SPARTANBURG — There was something different about Bryce Young on Wednesday, and it wasn't his job description.

The Panthers No. 1 overall pick was destined for the starting job long before head coach Frank Reich acknowledged the obvious after practice — that Young was, in fact, the starter.

"Yes, he is QB 1," Reich said simply.

But it wasn't just that; it was something else, a different air about the rookie. He laughed. He made jokes. He teased his parents. He appeared to be having something resembling fun. It was more personality than we've seen from Young in his time here.

After teammate Brian Burns challenged the quarterback to bring it during the rookie talent show, Young said he couldn't reveal his choice of song, promising reporters he'd reveal it after the fact.

"I practice in the shower almost every night," he said with a grin.

When asked about his parents (who were standing nearby), he began by saying, "we only connect about once a month," before breaking into another grin, unable to keep that ruse up.

It wasn't a Dave Chapelle bit or anything, but we're not conditioned to see Young cracking jokes, so it stood out in relief. He earned his reputation for being buttoned-up for his play on the field as a guy who seemingly always makes the right decisions.

Reich referred to him as "a grown man" in terms of his maturity and approach to his job, but Young's also a day removed from his 22nd birthday. General manager Scott Fitterer noted yesterday you have to remind yourself he's a rookie sometimes, and Young joked that he had a minor hiccup trying to figure out whether he had enough time to do laundry between meetings.

But mostly, he's always been fairly straight-laced in his first few months, as he was careful with his words, always expressing gratitude. That was still there Wednesday, as he talked about what "a blessing" it was for fans to line up hours before practice to see him, so he obliged by putting on a show.

There were several standout throws, including a deep ball to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr.

Reich acknowledged that the play was evidence of Young's ability to get it out quickly, diagnosing the pressure, and shooting it out early but still getting it downfield. If the early months of offensive install were about making smart reads and getting the ball out quickly (which is shorthand for short passes), the Young airing it out a bit more is a sign that this offense is in its evolutionary phase.

"As an offense, we know our identity," Young said. "We're going to take what the defense gives us and attack when we can. I have my reads and progressions for every play. Whether it's understated or overstated, for us, we don't feel like that. Our philosophy is to take what the defense gives us, make the right decisions, and take chances to attack when we have opportunities to do so.

"If the smartest and most efficient play is to go underneath or intermediate, we'll do so as well. That's really the mentality and the mindset. We don't feel like philosophically we're overlooking anything."

— If comedy is what you're looking for, the banter coming from Duce Staley keeps a certain energy in practice regardless of the period.

Without getting into details, suffice it to say the assistant head coach and running backs coach has found a target in veteran safety Vonn Bell and gives him regular reminders of the relative progress of each side of the ball.

It's good-natured and in the spirit of fun, but it is also constant.

— The first interception of training camp was an impressive one, as linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill made an athletic play on a pass thrown by Andy Dalton.

Grugier-Hill is a known commodity for Reich (they were in Philadelphia together), and a player who will at least make a significant impact on special teams.

But Grugier-Hill has elite speed for a linebacker (a 4.45-second 40 at his pro day workout in 2016), and has been a productive defensive player in previous spots (108 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and an interception for Houston in 2021).

He's playing behind entrenched veterans in Shaq Thompson and Frankie Luvu, but depth at inside linebacker is a need, so seeing him make plays was a plus.

— Other than the four players still on the active/physically unable to perform list, there wasn't a lot of action on the side field with rehabbing players.

Wide receiver Marquez Stevenson was on a bike next to guard Austin Corbett (who is coming back from torn ACL).

But the rest of the roster was practicing.

Jaycee Horn was limited after the early individual period, and Donte Jackson got some reps off as he comes back from a torn Achilles. Reich said that even though both of them were clear to go, the team still wanted to be smart with the workload and keep them healthy for the long-term.

— With Corbett on the sidelines, Cade Mays continued to work with the starters at right guard. That's been consistent with the offseason. While they've declared it a competitive situation, rookie Chandler Zavala will miss a week or so with a hamstring issue, so Mays has a chance to give himself a bit of a lead in that competition.

As a sixth-round rookie, Mays was the team's jumbo package fullback last season when they put seven linemen on the field at one time. In college, he played all five positions along the line.

Speaking of lineup stuff, Marquis Haynes Sr. worked with the starters as the other outside linebacker opposite Burns.

— There was a huge crowd at practice, with fans lined up at the gate well in advance of the 9 a.m. opening of the hill overlooking the Wofford practice field. And as soon as they opened, a group of teenagers wearing Young jerseys dashed across the hill to get a prime spot.

The first in line was Spartanburg's Marcus Smith. The 40-year-old was content to let the kids run ahead since he showed up at 5:30 a.m. for a good spot in line.

"This is like the first day of school; football's back," Smith said before practice. "I've been doing this since I was 12, and I wanted to be here to see this."

View photos of players at the first day of training camp practice at Wofford.

Related Content